The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS Lake Erie (CG 70) successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, resulting in the intercept of a medium-range ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean by a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IA guided missile.
At 11:10 p.m. HST, (4:10 a.m. EST) a unitary medium-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, on Kauai, Hawaii. The target flew northwest towards a broad ocean area of the Pacific Ocean.
The in-orbit Space Tracking and Surveillance System-Demonstrators (STSS-D) detected and tracked the target, and forwarded track data to the USS Lake Erie. The ship, equipped with the second-generation Aegis BMD weapon system, used Launch on Remote doctrine to engage the target.
The ship developed a fire control solution from the STSS-D track and launched the SM-3 Block IA guided missile approximately five minutes after target launch. The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space and released its kinetic warhead. The kinetic warhead acquired the target reentry vehicle, diverted into its path, and, using only the force of a direct impact, engaged and destroyed the target.
Initial indications are that all components performed as designed. Program officials will assess and evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.
Today’s event, designated Flight Test Standard Missile-20 (FTM-20), was a demonstration of the ability of space-based assets to provide mid-course fire control quality data to an Aegis BMD ship, extending the battlespace, providing the ability for longer range intercepts and defense of larger areas.
FTM-20 is the 24th successful intercept in 30 flight test attempts for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002. Across all Ballistic Missile Defense System programs, this is the 58th successful hit-to-kill intercept in 73 flight tests since 2001.
Aegis BMD is the sea-based component of the MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System. The Aegis BMD engagement capability defeats short- to intermediate-range, unitary and separating, midcourse-phase ballistic missile threats with the SM-3, as well as short-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase with the SM-2 Block IV missile. The MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD program.
Naval Today Staff, February 13, 2013; Image: US Navy