Another successful test strike for critical missile intercept defense program

Another successful test strike for critical missile intercept defense program

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The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and U.S. Navy sailors manning the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex (AAMDTC) at the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii, successfully conducted an operational live fire test on Monday demonstrating the Aegis Weapon System Engage On Remote capability to track and intercept an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile target. (MDA screenshot)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the U.S. Navy had another successful intercept of a medium-range ballistic missile target, the second successful hit in less than two months.

The Monday test consisted of a target launched by a U.S. Air Force C-17 thousands of miles southwest of the Aegis Ashore Test site in Kauai, Hawaii. That location released the SM-3 Block IIA Interceptor to track and intercept the incoming target, the MDA said in a release to reporters.

The test “was of great significance to the future of multi-domain missile defense operations and supports a critical initial production acquisition milestone for the SM-3 Block IIA missile program,” MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in the news release.

The successful test underscores the reversal of fortune for the program, which suffered from glitches and bad quirks in the initial tests. MDA officials speaking to TMN on background said that the earlier hiccups have been identified and corrected, and that the program is likely back on schedule if not ahead of schedule.

“Today’s successful flight test demonstrated the effectiveness of the European Phased Adaptive Approach Phase 3 architecture,” Greaves said. “I offer my congratulations to all members of the team, military, civilian, contractors and allies who helped make this possible.”

The Aegis Ashore SM-3 Block IIA missile is being developed by Raytheon and is a joint project between the U.S. and Japan. Aegis Ashore is part of the midcourse layer of U.S. missile defense, and is designed to defeat short- to intermediate-range missiles from North Korea and elsewhere, Pentagon officials told reporters earlier this year.

When ready, the missile will “be deployed to Navy ships, Japan, Romania and Poland to protect against North Korean and Iranian threats,” MDA officials said. “The missile is designed to be capable of reaching a target at a distance of up 115 miles. It is basically a land-based version of the Aegis system on U.S. destroyers and cruisers,” Pentagon officials told reporters earlier this year.

Between fiscal 1987 and fiscal 2017, the MDA has received about $189.9 billion, according to the agency’s web page. The MDA received $7.9 billion in fiscal 2018 and $9.9 billion for fiscal 2019, the current fiscal year, the MDA website says.

The only other years the agency had a budget of $9 billion or greater were fiscal 2007, when the budget was $9.4 million, and in fiscal years 2005 and 2009, when the budgets were $9 billion both years, according to MDA statistics.

This graphic illustrates the 10 steps in how the missile intercept works (Graphic: MDA)

 

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