US Ship-Launched Missile Intercepts ICBM in Milestone Test

A Standard Missile-3 Block IIA missile fitted on a destroyer intercepted and destroyed a threat-representative ICBM.

The US has successfully used a small, ship-fired ballistic missile interceptor to destroy a target Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), in a first of its kind test.

The test took place in the open ocean northeast of Hawaii Tuesday. A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile, part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, fitted on a destroyer, intercepted and destroyed a threat-representative ICBM.

The ICBM was launched from a site in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

The destroyer launched the missile after tracking the target ICBM using Command and Control Battle Management Communications in a defense of Hawaii scenario.

Based on preliminary data the test has met its primary objective of demonstrating the ability for the SM-3 Block IIA missile to intercept an ICBM.

Further evaluation of the system’s performance will continue based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test, the US Navy said.

Part of Overall Architecture of Layered Defense

The test was part of a process to determine the feasibility of the Aegis BMD as a component of an architecture for the layered defense of the US. 

The Aegis BMD is the naval component of the US Missile Defense System. 

Director of Missile Defense Agency, Vice Admiral Jon Hill, said that as part of the process, the agency is “also exploring the possibility of augmenting the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system by fielding additional sensors and weapon systems to hedge against unexpected developments in the missile threat.”

This was the sixth test of an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel using the SM-3 Block IIA guided missile.

It was originally scheduled for May of this year but was delayed due to the restrictions in the movement of personnel and equipment because of the pandemic.

The US Congress had mandated to evaluate the feasibility of the SM-3 Block IIA missile’s capability to defeat an ICBM threat before the end of 2020.

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