WASHINGTON — The U.S. Missile Defense Agency launched three missile targets over the Atlantic Ocean Feb. 24 to test the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System’s response to a multitiered attack.

No intercept was planned or attempted as part of the test.

Two U.S. Navy destroyers equipped with the Aegis Weapon System acquired and tracked the targets, and launched SM-3 Block 1B interceptors to simulate an attempted interception. Credit: MDA

The targets — three short-range ballistic missiles — launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 2:30 a.m. local time, the MDA said in a press release.

Two U.S. Navy destroyers equipped with the Lockheed Martin-built Aegis Weapon System acquired and tracked the targets, and simulated engagements with Standard Missile-3 Block 1B interceptors. The simulation was the first against live targets of the MDA’s Distributed Weighted Engagement Scheme, which automatically coordinates between Aegis destroyers to determine which ship is the preferred shooter and thus avoids duplication.

A third destroyer was involved for “associated operations,” the release said. The exercise, known as FTX-19, also included fire control, discrimination and engagement tasks.

In November, a Navy destroyer fired three Raytheon-built SM-3 interceptors to destroy one short-range ballistic missile and two cruise missile over the Pacific Ocean in a test against a multitiered threat. The Feb. 24 test focused exclusively on short-range ballistic missiles.

Results from the test will inform implementation of the second phase of the Phased Adaptive Approach for European missile defense, which is slated to begin this year and involves equipping Aegis ships currently outfitted with SM-3 Block 1A interceptors with the more capable SM-3 Block 1B. The Block 1B is slated for eventually installation on land in Romania in a subsequent phase of the Phased Adaptive Approach.


Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.