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RIM-161 SM-3 Flight Test Program

The large, open ocean spaces associated with PMRF are ideal for flight-testing long range and high altitude ballistic missile engagements. In accordance with the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) meeting of February 1997 and the Chief of Naval Operations memorandum of 21 November 1997, the U.S. Navy is authorized to conduct BMD testing at PMRF. MDA plans to use PMRF for Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system tests, as well as Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) tests in the future.

In FY03, two intercept attempts of a unitary target in its ascent phase were conducted. In the first test, the Aegis BMD element successfully intercepted the target. Using a newly designed divert system onboard the SM-3 missile, the Aegis BMD failed to intercept the target in the second FY03 test. The cause of the failed intercept has been attributed to a malfunction in a divert valve in the attitude control system onboard the kinetic warhead. Testing continued based on the consistent performance of the sustained pulse mode, while mitigation options were evaluated.

In FY03, the operational robustness of the Aegis BMD Block 2004 test program was enhanced by increased operational realism in the test strategy. Efforts to add operational realism as part of the developmental test strategy provide significant risk reduction in advance of operational testing and potential deployment of the element. The planned growth in flight test realism is consistent with the maturity of the system. Although the Block 2004 flight test plan included many operationally realistic aspects, some important operational scenarios remain untested by the end of the Block 2004 test program. These include multiple simultaneous engagements and separating targets. Development and integration of critical technologies pertaining to threat discrimination (e.g., AWS discrimination logic, radar and infrared seeker upgrades) and missile propulsion (e.g., kinetic warhead divert system, SM-3 booster propulsion) could improve operational capability as they are introduced in Block 2004 and subsequent upgrades.

  1. Aegis BMD testbed initiated a series of increasingly complex missions to evaluate SM-3 design capability while the program prepares for potential emergency tactical availability. The first mission of this test series, Flight Mission Four (FM-4), was flown on 21 November 2002 resulting in a third consecutive successful intercept for the program. Flight Mission-4 (FM-4) involved the firing of a developmental Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) from the Aegis ballistic missile defense cruiser USS Lake Erie to engage a ballistic missile target launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The missile's kinetic warhead acquired, tracked and diverted into the target, demonstrating the Aegis BMD system's capability to engage the ballistic missile target in the ascent phase. This mission demonstrated the ship's crew and system response times necessary to track, engage, and intercept a ballistic missile target early in flight during its ascent phase (prior to apogee). FM-4 also provided a key verification of SM-3's capability to accurately hit the target at a predefined point for lethality which, for this test, was forward of the target center. The KW impacted within centimeters of the aimpoint, completely destroying the target avionics section.
  2. FM-5 on 18 June 2003 failed in an attempt to intercept its target. A developmental Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) was launched from the U.S. Navy cruiser, USS Lake Erie (CG-70), in a Missile Defense Agency test near Kauai, Hawaii. The main mission of Aegis ballistic missile defense Flight Mission-5 (FM-5) was to evaluate the SM-3 kinetic warhead's guidance, navigation and control operation in space using an upgraded solid divert and attitude control system (SDACS). The mock warhead deployed, but the intercept did not occur as expected. The primary objective of this test is to evaluate the SM-3 kinetic warhead's guidance, navigation and control operation in space using an upgraded solid divert and attitude control system (SDACS). FM-5 was the second of a planned six flight test series within the missile defense Block 2004 time period to develop a sea based ballistic missile defense against short to intermediate range ballistic missiles. FM-5 is the second developmental flight test against more complex, stressing, and operationally realistic ballistic missile engagement scenarios.
  3. On 11 December 2003 Flight Mission-6 (FM-6) involved the detection and tracking of an Aries medium-range target missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), Kauai, Hawaii at 8:10am HST (1:10pm EST). FM-6 was the third of planned six flight test series within the missile defense Block 2004 time period. Approximately two minutes after target launch, a developmental Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) was launched from the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense cruiser the USS LAKE ERIE (CG 70). Approximately two minutes later the SM-3 successfully intercepted the target missile with hit to kill technology, using only the force of the direct collision to destroy the target. This was the fourth successful intercept for Aegis BMD and SM-3. Between January 2002 and late 2004, the Aegis BMD system had successfully intercepted targets in space four times with SM-3. In all the flight tests, the SM-3 was launched from a US Navy cruiser under increasingly realistic, operational conditions.
  4. On 24 February 2005 the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Weapon System and Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) destroyed a ballistic missile outside the earth's atmosphere during an Aegis BMD Program flight test over the Pacific Ocean. The Feb. 24 mission -- the fifth successful intercept for SM-3 -- was the first firing of the Aegis BMD "Emergency Deployment" capability using operational versions of the SM-3 Block I missile and Aegis BMD Weapon System. This was also the first test to exercise SM-3's third stage rocket motor (TSRM) single-pulse mode. The TSRM has two pulses, which can be ignited independently, providing expansion of the ballistic missile engagement battlespace. The SM-3 was launched from the Aegis BMD cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) and hit a target missile that had been launched from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. FM-7 was the fourth of a planned six flight test series within the missile defense Block 2004 time period, was scheduled for the 3rd quarter of FY2003 as of February 2002.
  5. On 17 November 2005 a test involved for the first time a "separating" target, meaning that the target warhead separated from its booster rocket requiring the interceptor to distinguish between the body of the missile and the actual warhead. The interceptor missile was launched from the Pearl Harbor-based Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70). The target was intercepted more than 100 miles in space above the Pacific Ocean and 375 miles northwest of Kauai. FM-8 the fifth of a planned six flight test series within the missile defense Block 2004 time period, scheduled for the 1st quarter of FY2004 as of February 2002. By February 2004 this test was scheduled for the 2nd quarter of FY2005.
  6. A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) was launched on March 8, 2006 from the USS Lake Erie (CG 70) in a Missile Defense Agency and Japan Defense Agency joint test in the Pacific. The Joint Control Test Vehicle-1 (JCTV-1) cooperative test demonstrated the SM-3 with a Japan-designed advanced nosecone. The flight test, a milestone in a joint cooperative research project, is an example of the ongoing coordination between the U.S. and Japan on missile defense efforts. FM-9 was the sixth of a planned six flight test series within the missile defense Block 2004 time period, scheduled for the 2nd quarter of FY2004 as of February 2002. By February 2004 this test was scheduled for the 3rd quarter of FY2005.
  7. The 22 June 2006 test involved the launch of a Standard Missile 3 (SM-3 Block IA) from the USS Shiloh, an Aegis-class cruiser, modified to perform the ballistic missile defense mission, and a hit to kill intercept of a "separating" target, meaning that the target warhead separated from its booster rocket. It was the seventh successful intercept test involving the sea-based component of the nation's ballistic missile defense system in eight attempts. The missile successfully intercepted the target warhead outside the earth's atmosphere more than 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and 250 miles northwest of Kauai. FM-10 was scheduled for the 3rd quarter of FY2004 as of February 2002. By February 2004 this test was scheduled for the 4th quarter of FY2005.
  8. FTM-11 Event 4 on 7 December 2006 was a no-test, resulting in a re-schedule. The planned sea-based missile intercept test scheduled for today by the Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Navy was not completed due to an incorrect system setting aboard the Aegis-class cruiser USS Lake Erie which prevented the fire control system aboard the ship from launching the first of the two interceptor missiles. FM-11 was scheduled for the 1st quarter of FY2005 as of February 2002. By February 2004 this test was scheduled for the 2nd quarter of FY2006. FTM-11 was completed 26 April 2007 by the Aegis BMD cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70). FTM-11 was the 4th Objective flight test to verify BMD 3.6 engagement capability with a near simultaneous multiple engagement and intercept of one low exo-atmospheric Group A (SRBM) target using an SM-3 Block IA missile, and a BQM-74 aerial target using an SM-2 Block IIIA missile. Conducted FTM-12 flight test to verify BMD 3.6 engagement capability with an intercept of a Group B (MRBM) target with an Integrated Reactive Lethality Payload (IRLP) using an SM-3 Block IA missile. The SM-3 intercept occurred approximately 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and 250 miles northwest of Kauai.
  9. Flight Test Standard Missile -12 (FTM-12) on 22 June 2007 marked the ninth successful intercept in eleven flight tests for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Program. FM-12 was scheduled for the 2nd quarter of FY2005 as of February 2002. By February 2004 this test was scheduled for the 4th quarter of FY2006. The test involved a "separating" target, meaning that the target warhead separated from its booster rocket. The USS Decatur (DDG 73), using the operationally-certified Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Weapon System (BMD 3.6) and the Standard Missile - 3 (SM-3) Block IA missile successfully intercepted the target during its midcourse phase of flight. The USS Decatur's crew launched the SM-3, and two minutes later the missile successfully intercepted the target warhead outside the earth's atmosphere more than 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and 250 miles northwest of Kauai. FTM-12 flight test verified BMD 3.6 engagement capability with an intercept of a Group B target using an SM-3 Block IA missile.
  10. Flight Test Standard Missile-13 (FTM-13) on 06 November 2007 marked the tenth and eleventh successful intercepts, of thirteen targets in twelve scheduled flight tests for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Program. FM-13 was scheduled for the 3rd quarter of FY2005 as of February 2002. By February 2004 this test was scheduled for the 2nd quarter of FY2007. The mission was completed by the cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70), using the tactically certified 3.6 Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense shipboard weapon system and the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IA interceptor. At approximately 6:12 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (11:12 p.m. EST), a target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. Moments later, a second, identical target was launched from the PMRF. The USS Lake Erie's Aegis BMD Weapon System detected and tracked the targets and developed fire control solutions. Approximately two minutes later, the USS Lake Erie's crew fired two SM-3 missiles, and two minutes later they successfully intercepted the targets outside the earth's atmosphere more than 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and 250 miles northwest of Kauai.
  11. The JFTM-1 test event on 18 December 2007 verified the new engagement capability of the Aegis BMD configuration of the recently upgraded Japanese destroyer, JS KONGO (DDG-173). At approximately 12:05 pm (HST), 7:05 am Tokyo time on Dec. 18, 2007, a ballistic missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. JS KONGO crew members detected and tracked the target. The Aegis Weapon System then developed a fire control solution and at approximately 12:08 pm (HST), 7:08 am Tokyo time, a Standard Missile -3 (SM-3) Block IA was launched. Approximately 3 minutes later, the SM-3 successfully intercepted the target approximately 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean. FTM-1 was the first time that a Japanese ship was designated to launch the interceptor missile, and marked eleven intercepts in twelve attempts.
  12. At approximately 10:26 p.m. EST 20 February 2008, a U.S. Navy AEGIS warship, the USS Lake Erie (CG-70), fired a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) hitting the satellite approximately 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) over the Pacific Ocean as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph. USS Decatur (DDG-73) and USS Russell (DDG-59) were also part of the task force. On 14 February 2008 it was announced that the Navy will intercept a malfunctioning US spy satellite sometime after 20 February 2008. President Bush decided to fire a missile to bring down a broken spy satellite because of the potential danger to people from rocket fuel it is carrying. The window for intercepting the satellite would remain open for as many as seven or eight days. The military posted a NOTAM closing airspace about 1000 km West of Maui, indicating that the first intercept attempt might come on 21 February 2008 at about 03:30 UTC [10:30 PM EST on 20 February 2008]. Intercepting the satellite at about 130 nautical miles altitude will reduce the risk of debris in space. Once the satellite is hit, officials hope 50 percent of the debris will come to Earth in the first two orbits and the rest shortly thereafter. Robert Burns of the Associated Press reported 15 February 2008 that the order to launch the program came 04 January 2008. In a matter of weeks, three Navy warships - the USS Lake Erie, USS Decatur and USS Russell - were outfitted with modified Aegis anti-missile systems and three SM-3 missiles were pulled off an assembly line and given the BMD Kill Vehicle.
  13. FTM-14 BX09 3Q FY 2008 . Launch on TADIL (LOT) engagement og group F Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile target. FM-14 was scheduled for the 4th quarter of FY2005 as of February 2002. By February 2004 this test was scheduled for the 4th quarter of FY2007, or the 2nd quarter of FY2008 [this may be a typo].
  14. FTM-15 BX09 2Q FY 2009 . Conduct a Launch on TADIL (Aegis to Aegis) flight test against a Group F target. FM-15 was scheduled for the 1st quarter of FY2006 as of February 2002. By February 2004 this test was scheduled for the 3rd quarter of FY2008.
  15. FTM-16 EX09 4Q FY 2010 . 1st flight test of SM-3 Block IB missile against a group B Medium range Ballistic Missile target. FM-16 was scheduled for the 2nd quarter of FY2006 as of February 2002. By February 2004 this test was scheduled for the 2nd quarter of FY2009.
  16. FTM-17 EX09 3Q FY 2011 . BMD 4.0.1 engagement with SM-3 Block IB against a group c target. FM-17 was scheduled for the 3rd quarter of FY2006 as of February 2002. By February 2004 this test was scheduled for the 3rd quarter of FY2009.
  17. FTM-18 EX09 3Q FY 2012 . BMD 4.0.1 engagement against a group C target with an SM-3 Block IB missile. FM-18 was scheduled for the 4th quarter of FY2006 as of February 2002. By February 2004 this test was possibly no longer scheduled.
  18. FTM-19 EX09 3Q FY 2013 . BMD 5.0 engagement against a group C target with an SM-3 Block IB missile.



  • On 20 May 2014 the US Missile Defense Agency and the Navy for the first time test-fired the land-based version of Aegis BMD, with engineers from Lockheed Martin, producer of the system, participating in the test. A Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) Block IB was fired from an installation on Kauai, Hawaii, and successfully hit a simulated target. The test was aimed at verifying safe launch and fly-out of the missile from the launch facility.
  • In 2015 the US plans to conduct a test with a real target before a scheduled deployment of Aegis Ashore in Romania. A second similar system is to be deployed in Poland in 2018.



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