A Japanese warship outfitted with the U.S.-manufactured Aegis ballistic defense system recently tracked and destroyed a target missile off the coast of Hawaii, the two governments said.

The intercept test, conducted in international waters, was the fourth for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). All four Aegis intercept tests conducted by the JMSDF have been successful.

The exercise “verified the newest engagement capability of the Japan Aegis configuration of the recently upgraded Japanese destroyer, JS Kirishima,” reads a joint statement released by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the JMSDF.

At approximately 5:06 p.m. (HST), 12:06 p.m. Tokyo time, on Oct. 29, a separating 1,000 km class ballistic missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. The Kirishima crew detected and tracked the target, according to the joint statement. The Aegis system then launched a Standard Missile -3 (SM-3) Block IA missile. Approximately three minutes later, the SM-3 successfully intercepted the target approximately 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean, according to the statement.

Also participating in the test were the USS Lake Erie (CG-70) and the USS Russell (DDG-59), both Aegis-equipped destroyers. The two U.S. ships tracked and conducted a simulated intercept of the target missile, according to MDA.

The Kirishima is the fourth Japanese destroyer to be upgraded for the missile defense mission.

Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the prime contractor for the Aegis system, while Raytheon [RTN] builds the SM-3 interceptor missile.

Lockheed Martin said in a statement that the test completes the planned upgrade of the Japanese fleet. The company last month successfully demonstrated the second generation of Aegis capability, known as 4.0.1 (Defense Daily, Oct. 1). The Navy has 20 of its 21 Aegis ships operating with the 3.6.1 system. The Lake Erie is testing and exercising with the new 4.0.1.

There are currently 23 Aegis-equipped warships–20 in the U.S. fleet and three in the JMSDF. Twelve additional ships have been identified for modification.

Last week’s test also marked the 18th SM-3 intercept, Frank Wyatt, Raytheon’s vice president of air and missile defense systems, told sister publication Defense Daily. There have been two intercept failures out of 20 attempts.

Raytheon has delivered just over 100 SM-3s to date. The SM-3 Block IA was initially fielded in 2006. It is the third variant of SM-3, with prior versions supporting early testing and initial capability.

“We have delivered every one of those missiles ahead of schedule and under cost,” said Wyatt.

He added that Raytheon is hoping for a congressionally mandated “plus-up” in IA production next year.

Some members of Congress “would like to get additional IA missiles into the fleet because we clearly have ships in harm’s way that could use those missiles,” he said, adding that the order is likely to be for 25 additional missiles.

MDA last month awarded Raytheon a $175 million contract for development of the Block IIA, slated for deployment in 2018 under the third phase of the Obama administration’s four-part Phased Adaptive Approach for U.S. and European missile defense (Defense Daily, Oct 5).

Raytheon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, under contract to MDA and Japan’s Ministry of Defense, respectively, are developing the next-generation SM-3 Block IIA missile, scheduled to begin flight tests in 2014. MHI is designing large segments of the propulsion systems–the second and third stages of the missile, predominantly, according to Wyatt.

“The teaming relationship, very candidly, is outstanding,” said Wyatt.

The new IIA missile will include larger second- and third-stage rocket motors and a larger kinetic warhead to provide a greater area of defense against more sophisticated threats, Wyatt said.

The IIA missile “will provide an incremental improvement in capability against a range of ballistic missile threats,” he said.

Following flight testing, the missiles are to be deployed on U.S. and Japanese Aegis ships, as well as at various land-based locations in Europe, to defend against short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the ascent and midcourse phases of flight.

The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2011 budget request for MDA is $8.4 billion, about a half billion increase over FY ’10. As announced by the president last September, missile defense is shifting focus from ground-based defense against ICBMs to guarding against short- and medium-range missiles, which MDA has said comprise about 99 percent of the missile threat from countries such as Iran. The agency has begun implementing the Phased Adaptive Approach, a four-part effort to field a ballistic missile defense capability in Europe against the existing short-and medium-range ballistic missile threat.