The Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy sailors aboard USS Lake Erie successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system May 9.
This test resulted in the first intercept of a short-range ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean by the Navy’s newest Missile Defense interceptor, the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 1B.
At 8:18 p.m. Hawaiian Standard Time (2:18 a.m., EDT, May 10) the target missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, located on Kauai, Hawaii. The target flew on a northwesterly trajectory towards a broad ocean area of the Pacific Ocean. Following target launch, Lake Erie detected and tracked the missile with its onboard AN/SPY-1 radar. The ship, equipped with the second-generation Aegis BMD 4.0.1 weapon system, developed a fire control solution and launched the Standard Missile-3 Block IB interceptor.
Lake Erie continued to track the target and sent trajectory information to the SM-3 Block IB interceptor in-flight. The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space, as designated by the fire control solution, and released its kinetic warhead. The kinetic warhead acquired the target, diverted into its path, and, using only the force of a direct impact, engaged and destroyed the threat in a hit-to-kill intercept.
The event, designated Flight Test Standard Missile-16 Event 2a, was the first successful live-fire intercept test of the SM-3 Block IB interceptor and the second-generation Aegis BMD 4.0.1 weapon system. Previous successful intercepts were conducted with the Aegis BMD 3.6.1 weapon system and the SM-3 Block IA interceptor, which are currently operational on U.S. Navy ships deployed across the globe.
Aegis BMD 4.0.1 and the SM-3 Block IB interceptor improve the system’s ability to engage increasingly longer range and more sophisticated ballistic missiles that may be launched in larger raid sizes. The SM-3 Block IB interceptor features a two-color infrared seeker, which improves sensitivity for longer-range target acquisition and high-speed processing for target discrimination. The SM-3 Block IB interceptor also features an upgraded onboard signal processor and a more flexible throttleable divert and attitude control system to maneuver the IB interceptor to intercept.
Initial indications are that all components performed as designed. Program officials will conduct an extensive assessment and evaluation of system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.
FTM-16 Event 2a is the 22nd successful intercept in 27 flight test attempts for the Aegis BMD program. Across all Ballistic Missile Defense System programs, this is the 53rd successful hit-to-kill intercept in 67 flight test attempts since 2001.
Aegis BMD is the sea-based midcourse component of the MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System and is designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. The MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program.