For the second time in a row, the Department of Defense has successfully tested a key missile defense system capable of detecting, tracking, and ultimately striking down an enemy ballistic missile.
On October 26, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) launched an “enemy” medium-range ballistic missile from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. Sailors aboard the Navy warship USS John Finn then detected and tracked it using an onboard radar system, before launching a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA capable of successfully tracking and intercepting the test missile in dramatic footage captured above the clouds.
Speaking to Reuters under the condition of anonymity, MDA officials say they are confident they have corrected previous issues that caused the interceptor system to fail. This milestone shows the US is capable of striking down incoming medium-range missiles, which are effective for 480 to 960 kilometers (300 to 600 miles), from countries like Iran and North Korea.
“This was a superb accomplishment and key milestone for the SM-3 Block IIA return to flight. My congratulations to the entire team, including our sailors, industry partners, and allies who helped achieve this milestone,” said MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves in a statement. The test reportedly met its objectives based on initial data review and program officials will continue to evaluate the system’s performance.
SM-3 Block IIA is currently being developed by the US and Japan and operates as part of the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System, a 17-year project aimed to defend the US and its allies from ballistic missile attacks.
“The AEGIS Weapon System (AWS) is a centralized, automated, command-and-control (C2) and weapons control system that was designed as a total weapon system, from detection to kill,” says the US Navy on its website.
Reuters reports the system will work toward intercepting intermediate-range missiles, whose effective distance is roughly 965 to 5,310 kilometers (600 to 3,300 miles), in the coming months. (For reference, North Korea to San Francisco is roughly 8,800 kilometers/5,500 miles.) Ultimately, the system could be deployed in Poland at a site designated as a future US missile defense network, Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance Chairman Riki Ellison told Reuters.