By Dave Ahearn
The score was one hit, one miss, in an Aegis system ballistic missile defense (BMD) test in the Pacific where the Navy for the first time ran the BMD test itself, without oversight by the Missile Defense Agency, the Navy’s 3rd Fleet said.
That 50-50 result comes as some Democrats in Congress are poised once again to try cutting missile defense funding next year.
Despite the one-hit, one-miss test results, the record for the Aegis and Standard Missile system shows an overwhelming majority of successes, achieving 16 of 19 attempted intercepts over several years of tests.
In the test at the Pacific Missile Range Facility off Kauai, Hawaii, two 3rd Fleet ships based at Pearl Harbor each were presented with a target short-range ballistic missile fired from Barking Sands, Hawaii.
First, the USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60), an Aegis-equipped destroyer, detected and tracked a target missile, and fired a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor, which demolished the target successfully in a direct hit.
Then the USS Hopper (DDG-70) detected and tracked a target missile, and fired an SM-3 interceptor, which seemed to follow a nominal trajectory toward an intercept, but missed the target. An investigation will attempt to determine why the miss occurred.
“The successful engagement of ballistic missile targets from ships at sea is extraordinary,” Vice Adm. Samuel Locklear, 3rd Fleet commander, said, citing the Pacific Blitz exercises that included the BMD tests. “Pacific Blitz highlights the successful transition from developmental test flights to operational fleet execution and demonstrates the viability of the maritime BMD concept of operations.”
During Pacific Blitz, the Japanese Aegis destroyer Chokai (DDG 176) participated by tracking the two target missiles.
That prepared Chokai to attempt to shoot down a separating missile target later this month, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency announced.
PacBlitz is the first exercise to engage ballistic missile targets with the operational Aegis BMD weapon system and fire the SM-3 missile.
Lockheed Martin [LMT] makes the Aegis system, while Raytheon [RTN] makes Standard Missiles.
When the two target missiles were launched separately from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands in Kauai, Chokai tracked them and developed a simulated engagement, as training for its own shoot-down test next month.
Chokai also transmitted that data to the Paul Hamilton and Hopper, and to shore command facilities.
The Missile Defense Agency and the Navy are modifying 18 Aegis combatants to conduct ballistic missile defense operations. By the end of next month, all 18 ships will have been upgraded to destroy short to intermediate range ballistic missiles while conducting other tasks simultaneously.
Sixteen of these ships are assigned to the Pacific Fleet.
Foreign Military Sales cases have been implemented to upgrade all four Japanese Kongo-class destroyers to the Aegis BMD operational capability.
Those Aegis BMD installations are scheduled through 2010. Each installation is followed by a flight test to demonstrate proper operation of the BMD equipment and computer programs.
Last December, the Kongo successfully intercepted a medium range target in Japan Flight Test Misssion-1 (JFTM-1).