The U.S. Navy, Lockheed Martin and the Missile Defense Agency successfully demonstrated, on the first attempt, the second generation Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Weapon System’s capability to engage a sophisticated, separating short range ballistic missile target with two Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB guided missiles that were fired and guided to intercept nearly simultaneously.
The test, known as Flight Test – Standard Missile-21 (FTM-21), was an operational test for Aegis BMD and SM-3 Block IB guided missile to engage and defeat a ballistic missile threat. FTM-21 marked the tenth time the USS Lake Erie (CG 70) and crew have successfully performed in Navy and Missile Defense Agency at-sea test events against cruise and ballistic missile targets using the second generation of the Aegis BMD configuration.
At approximately 2:30 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (8:30 p.m. EDT), a complex separating short-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. Following target launch, the USS Lake Erie detected and tracked the missile with its onboard AN/SPY-1 radar. The ship, equipped with the second-generation Aegis BMD weapon system, developed a fire control solution and launched two SM-3 Block IB guided missiles to engage the target. The first SM-3 that was launched successfully intercepted the target warhead. This was the first salvo mission of two SM-3 Block IB guided missiles launched against a single separating target.
Raytheon-made Standard Missile-3 Block IBs is a defensive weapon used by the U.S. and Japan to defend against short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
“Confidence in the SM-3 Block IB’s defensive capability continues to grow with each flight test,” said Dr. Taylor Lawrence, Raytheon Missile Systems president. “When this weapon deploys in 2015, the U.S. and our allies will have a tremendously reliable, capable defensive asset on their side.”
During the test, two SM-3 interceptors were launched at a single target consecutively. The first SM-3 eliminated the target. The second SM-3 was designed to test the ship weapons system’s ability to launch multiple missiles at one time against a threat. An intercept for the second SM-3 was not part of the test scenario.
“We’re gaining a tremendous amount of information about what this missile can do, and in many instances it is far surpassing design requirements,” said Dr. Mitch Stevison, Raytheon Missile Systems’ SM-3 program director. “The SM-3 Block IB is proving it can take on increasingly sophisticated scenarios, and that kind of confidence sets the stage for a production decision.”
“This latest test is the first time we have seen USS Lake Erie, sailors, and Aegis BMD Weapon System schedule, analyze, launch and control multiple missiles in flight through intercept at the same time,” said Nick Bucci, Director of BMD Development Programs at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems & Training business. “The Aegis BMD 4.0.2 configuration provides the Navy with the ability to respond to ever increasing and evolving ballistic missile threats around the world with persistent and reliable capabilities.”
The central component of the Lockheed Martin-developed Aegis BMD Combat System is the SPY-1 radar, the most widely fielded naval phased array radar in the world. The Aegis system and SPY-1 radar provide the U.S. and allied nations with advanced surveillance, anti-air warfare and missile defense capabilities. The Missile Defense Agency and Navy are jointly developing Aegis BMD as part of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System. Currently, 27 Aegis BMD-equipped warships have the certified capability to engage ballistic missiles and perform long-range surveillance and tracking missions, as well as an additional four ships in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. The U.S. Navy plans to procure seven new Aegis BMD-equipped destroyers, and has also planned to develop two Aegis Ashore systems to perform ballistic missile defense.
Press Release, September 19, 2013; Image: Lockheed Martin