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American Forces Press Service

Ballistic Missile Defense Test Successful

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2003 - A missile launched from the Navy Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie successfully intercepted a ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean, Navy and Missile Defense Agency officials said here Dec. 11. The target was fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Hawaii's oldest island, Kauai.

"This test was the next step in integrating Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense into the Ballistic Missile Defense System," said Chris Taylor, Missile Defense Agency spokesman.

The test of the Standard Missile-3, or SM-3, was the fourth of a six-flight series to develop a sea-based defense against short- to medium-range ballistic missiles. It involved detecting and tracking an Aries medium-range target missile.

A primary objective of this test, according to a DoD news release, was to evaluate the performance of long-range surveillance and track support from an Aegis cruiser and destroyer team that has the potential for use with a number of different missile defense elements. This includes the ground-based midcourse defense, which is designed to protect the United States against long-range ballistic missiles.

The target was launched at 8:10 a.m. Hawaiian Standard Time and was intercepted about four minutes later at an altitude of 137 kilometers with a closing speed of about 3.7 kilometers per second, said Taylor.

The Aegis destroyer, USS Russell which sailed closer to Kauai, used its Aegis system to detect the target and fed the information to the USS Lake Erie. The Lake Erie also used its Aegis system. Within two minutes after target launch, the Aegis Weapon System fired the SM-3 guided missile. About two minutes later, the missile's kinetic warhead acquired, tracked and diverted the target, using only the force of the direct collision to destroy the target - "hit to kill" technology. This was the fourth successful intercept for Aegis BMD and SM-3.

Program officials said they will evaluate data compiled from the test and incorporate changes as required.

Taylor said future tests would use increasingly complex, stressing, ballistic missile engagement scenarios and greater use of operational-like procedures.

Aegis is at sea in more than 65 U.S. cruisers and destroyers and in four Japanese destroyers. More than 20 additional U.S. Aegis destroyers are in the production and planning cycle.

The Missile Defense Agency, in cooperation with the Navy, manages the Aegis BMD Program. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, Moorestown, N.J., is the combat system engineering agent and prime contractor for the Aegis weapon system and vertical launch system installed in Aegis cruisers and destroyers. Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., is the prime contractor for the SM-3 missile.


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