Missile Test Called Model for Future U.S.-Japan Weapons Development

By Stew Magnuson
The Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy sailors manning the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii, successfully conducted Flight Test Integrated-03.

Photo: Missile Defense Agency

The successful interception of an intermediate-range ballistic missile target over the Pacific earlier this week bodes well for cooperation between the United States and Japan when it comes to high-tech weapon development, industry leaders said.

The Missile Defense Agency and the Navy on Dec. 11 successfully conducted an operational live-fire test to track and intercept an intermediate-range ballistic missile target. It marked a number of firsts including: a successful intercept from a land-based launch; the intercept of the intermediate-range missile; and the first use of tracking data from sensors placed in another location, also known as “engage on remote.”

Raytheon served as the lead system integrator of the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor with subcomponents coming from a variety of Japanese companies led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Cooperation between the two countries on weapon development may become a trend, said Mitch Stevison, Raytheon strategic and naval systems vice president.

“Not only did it ... combine the resources of both countries to provide this great interceptor capability, it also set the stage for future activity between the two countries and what we can do together,” he said. That extends from the development and operation of the systems in the defense of the two nations, he said.

Navy sailors at the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii, conducted the test with an Aegis Ashore-launched Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor, according to an MDA statement. Raytheon also provided the AN/TPY-2 radar used in the engage-on-remote capability.

The test consisted of a target air-launched by a U.S. Air Force C-17 from an ocean area thousands of miles southwest of the ashore test site, from where the Navy launched the interceptor. The engagement employed a ground, air and space-based sensor/command-and-control architecture linked by the Ballistic Missile Defense System's Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications suite, the statement said.

MDA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in the statement that the test was an important milestone and it supported a critical initial production acquisition milestone for the SM-3 Block IIA missile program. It also was of great significance to the future of multi-domain missile defense operations, he added.

Stevison said if the Defense Department and Japanese Ministry of Defense gave SM-3 Block IIA production the greenlight, the cooperation would continue with the manufacturing of subcomponents. Meanwhile, industries from the two nations will continue to improve the technology based on the current tests, he added.

“This is only the beginning … of [Block] IIA in terms of looking at continuing to improve the system. We’re going to learn from this test just as we have learned from other tests,” Stevison said.

Based on preliminary data, the test met its objective, and program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test, the MDA statement said.

Stevison said the test will help put the agency on a firm path to intercepting longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles. The test gives further “confidence that this system is going to work against some of the most sophisticated threats,” he said.

While distances in the test are classified, they would be similar to the threats faced in Europe, he added.


Topics: Defense Department, Missile Defense

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