The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conducted its second successful missile defense flight and intercept test of a Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) against a medium-range ballistic missile (MBRB) off the coast of Hawaii on Aug. 29, the agency said Wednesday.
During the test, the USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53), a Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer equipped with the Lockheed Martin [LMT] Aegis Baseline 9.1 combat system, detected and tracked a target missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, with its Lockheed Martin AN/SPY-1 radar. The ship then fired two Raytheon [RTN] SM-6 Dual I missiles against the MRBM target in its terminal phase of flight, with one intercepting the target.
This sea-based SM-6 is part of the MDA’s Sea-Based Terminal system designed to intercept ballistic missiles in their terminal, or final, phase of flight after the re-enter the atmosphere.
“We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis BMD ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase,” Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, director of the MDA said in a statement.
The agency called the test “complex” but would not elaborate. It was designated Flight Test Standard Missile-27 Event 2 (FTM-27 E2) and seemed to mirror many elements of the first salvo SM-6 test intercept of an MRBM target in Dec.2016.
That test, FTM-27, had two SM-6s fired in immediate succession. The first interceptor was unarmed and designed to only collect test data while the second interceptor carried an explosive warhead and intercepted a Lockheed Martin-built target missile in its terminal stage (Defense Daily, Dec. 15, 2016). MDA did not confirm by publication time if this test copied that test style.
The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a nonprofit that advocates for missile defense advances and deployment, said at the time that the target in FTM-27 emulated a Chinese Dong-Fen 21 (DF-21) ballistic missile equipped with a maneuverable re-entry vehicle and designed to destroy American aircraft carriers.
The first SM-6 intercept test occurred in July 2015 when a missile shot down a short-range ballistic missile target.
Lockheed Martin highlighted this was the seventh successful intercept test using the Aegis Baseline 9.1 (BMD 5.0 CU) ballistic missile defense tracking and engagement capabilities overall and it was used in the two previous SM-6 intercept tests.
Paul Klammer, director of Aegis BMD at Lockheed Martin, said in a statement this test “demonstrates that Aegis can successfully execute complicated missions against a medium-range ballistic missile target. This latest test continues to demonstrate the cutting-edge capabilities and reliability of the Aegis Baseline 9 system.”
Raytheon’s SM-6 senior program director, Mike Campisi, noted how quickly the company was able to make the SM-6 ready for MRBM-style threats.
“Earlier this year, our customer requested an enhanced capability to deal with a sophisticated medium-range ballistic missile threat. We did all this – the analysis, coding and testing – in seven months; a process that normally takes one to two years,” Campisi said in a statement.
The SM-6 is launched vertically from the Lockheed Martin MK 41 Vertical Launching System canisters for anti-air warfare, anti-surface warfare, and ballistic missile defense. In March 2016 an SM-6 sunk its first surface target, a decommissioned guided missile frigate, the USS Reuben James.
The company said it has delivered over 330 SM-6s while still continuing production. In January, Raytheon said the Defense Department approved the sale of the SM-6 to unspecified allied nations (Defense Daily, Jan. 10, 2017).