U.S., Japan Test Shipboard Missile Intercept

Published Feb 7, 2017 5:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and Japan’s Ministry of Defense successfully tested the first intercept of a ballistic missile using Raytheon’s latest technology, the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA. 

The SM-3 Block IIA is being developed cooperatively by the United States and Japan to defeat medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Ship-based interceptors are part of U.S. defense plans against a possible attack on the U.S. or its allies by North Korea, which has continued to develop ballistic missiles despite United Nations sanctions.

The test took place off the west coast of Hawaii on February 3. The medium-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii. The intercept was carried out on board the guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), and the test was the first time it was launched from an Aegis ship. 

The “hit-to-kill” interceptor uses a “kill vehicle” to collide with targets in space, a capability that’s been likened to hitting a bullet with a bullet. It destroys ballistic missiles in space using the power of its impact, equivalent to a ten-ton truck moving at 600 miles per hour. The latest model, IIA, features larger rocket motors and a bigger, more capable kinetic warhead to engage threats sooner and protect larger regions from short-to-intermediate-range ballistic missile threats.

The successful test means the program is on track for deployment at sea and ashore in 2018.

Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Adm. Jim Syring said: “The missile, developed jointly by a Japanese and U.S. government and industry team, is vitally important to both our nations and will ultimately improve our ability to defend against increasing ballistic missile threats around the world.”