WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Tuesday's ambitious double success exo-atmospheric interception in the Pacific Ocean marked an unprecedented breakthrough and confirmed the mature technology underpinning short- and intermediate-range ballistic-missile defense. But long-range BMD against intercontinental ballistic missiles remains a much more limited and difficult goal.
In the test off Kauai, Hawaii, as Lockheed Martin noted in a statement, its Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Weapon System “successfully intercepted and destroyed two non-separating, short range ballistic missile targets nearly simultaneously.”
“This test marks the first successful attempt by any United States ballistic missile defense system at dual exo-atmospheric intercepts,” Lockheed Martin said.
“The test also represents the Aegis BMD system's 10th and 11th successful ballistic missile intercepts in 13 attempts,” it said.
In the test, the guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie, which operates the latest U.S. Navy-certified version Aegis BMD 3.6, “successfully guided two SM-3 Block IA missiles to intercept two ballistic missile targets outside the Earth’s atmosphere,” Lockheed Martin said.
The Japanese guided missile destroyer JS Kongo took part in the test “to detect, track and conduct a simulated engagement of the ballistic missile targets using its newly installed Aegis BMD Weapon System,” the company said.
“Kongo will be the first ship in Japan’s fleet to have a sea-based BMD capability. This destroyer is scheduled to conduct Japan’s first firing flight test in late 2007,” it said.
Kongo’s participation reflected the continuing close cooperation between Japan and the United States on ballistic missile defense. In terms of the scale of that and financial value of that cooperation, Japan now ranks as the United States' No. 1 BMD partner in the world.
In terms of the value of technical cooperation on the Patriot and Arrow BMD programs to protect against intermediate- and short-range ballistic missile threats, that honor goes to Israel.
“With two targets engaged simultaneously, both the system and crew are under additional stress and today they performed flawlessly,” said Orlando Carvalho, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Surface-Sea Based Missile Defense line of business.
“With Aegis, we build a little, test a little and learn a lot. Today’s test is the twelfth planned flight mission to methodically and incrementally fully verify the Aegis BMD capability. It is this rigorous engineering and test philosophy that is giving our nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System the edge it needs to deter and defeat ballistic missile threats,” Carvalho said.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Navy are jointly pushing ahead with extending the Aegis BMD program.
"Currently, nine U.S. Navy Aegis-equipped warships have the ability to conduct long range search and track and engage ballistic missiles. Another seven Aegis warships are equipped with Aegis BMD long range surveillance and track capability," Lockheed Martin said.
"Ultimately 15 Aegis destroyers and three Aegis cruisers will be outfitted with the ability to engage short to intermediate range ballistic missile threats and support other BMDS engagements using the Aegis BMD Weapon System and the SM-3. Japan has purchased Aegis BMD capability for their Kongo-class Aegis destroyers," the company said.
Lockheed Martin described the Aegis Weapon System as "the world’s premier naval surface defense system and is the foundation for Aegis BMD, a primary component of the sea-based element of the United States’ BMDS."
(Next: Aegis as mature technology)