Aegis, Sm-2 Interceptors Kill Target Missile In Terminal-Phase Success
(DEFENSE DAILY 06 JUN 08) … Dave Ahearn
The Aegis weapon control system guided two Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IV interceptors that obliterated a target missile in its terminal phase of flight, as the foreign-built unitary Scud-like target missile descended inside the atmosphere, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said yesterday.
This was a test of an interim, “gap-filler” sea-based capability to destroy a target missile in its last minutes of flight, Rear Adm. Brad Hicks, the Aegis ballistic missile defense program director, said in a teleconference with defense journalists. Further modifications will be made in the system.
Firing two interceptors in this situation–aiming to kill a target missile in its last 70 to 50 seconds of flight–is “fleet doctrine” and standard procedure, Hicks indicated.
While he said MDA generally wants to kill an enemy missile as early in its trajectory flight as possible–“earlier is better”–so as to have multiple opportunities to annihilate the threat, having a terminal phase capability is useful because some shorter range missiles aren’t up high in their midcourse of flight for long, meaning the terminal phase kill capability is needed.
Attempting to take out an enemy missile in its terminal phase still is difficult, because “it is your last engagement opportunity” before the enemy weapon slams into its target, he noted.
The test was conducted at the Pacific Missile Range Facility off Hawaii with an interceptor fired from the USS Lake Erie (CG-70), a Navy ballistic missile defense cruiser.
Lockheed Martin [LMT] makes the Aegis system, while Raytheon [RTN] makes the Standard Missile weapons family.
In the test, at 8:13 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time (2:13 p.m. ET), a short-range target was launched from a mobile launch platform 300 miles west of the Pacific Missile Range Facility.
Approximately four minutes later, the Lake Erie crew fired two SM-
2 Blk IV missiles, and within a minute or two the SM-2s intercepted the target inside the atmosphere, about 12 miles above the Pacific Ocean and about 100 miles west-northwest of Kauai.
FTM-14 test objectives included evaluation of: the BMDS ability to intercept and kill a short range ballistic missile target with the Aegis BMD, modified with the terminal mission capability; the modified
SM-2 Blk IV missile using SPY-1 cue; and system-level integration of the BMDS.
Flight Test Maritime-14 (FTM-14), marked the 14th overall successful intercept in 16 attempts for the Aegis BMD program and the second successful intercept of a terminal phase target by a modified Standard Missile-2 Block IV interceptor.
This is the 35th successful terminal and midcourse defense intercept in 43 tests since 2001, MDA stated.
Aegis BMD is the sea-based mid-course component of the MDA Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) and is designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats.
In 2006, the Aegis/SM role was expanded to include a sea-based terminal defense effort, using a modified version of the SM-2 Blk IV.
Unlike other missile defense technologies now deployed or in development, the SM-2 Blk IV does not use “hit to kill” technology (directly colliding with the target) to destroy the target missile.
Rather, it uses a blast fragmentation device that explodes in direct proximity to the target to complete the intercept and destroy the target.
MDA and the Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD program.
Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors of Moorestown, N.J., is the combat system engineering agent and prime contractor for the Aegis BMD Weapon System and Vertical Launch System installed in Aegis equipped cruisers and destroyers.
Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., is the prime contractor for the SM-2 and SM-3 missile and all previous variants of Standard Missile.
The SM-2 program is managed by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C.
The next test of this missile defense system will be later this year in the Pacific range, he said.
And the next test involving the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) and the Aegis system will be off a Japanese ship late this year, with another test off a U.S. Navy ship early next year, Hicks indicated.
The SM-2 BlkIV was chosen for the test yesterday because it could be modified quickly, he said, “to go after that shorter-range threat.”
This system will complement the SM-3 and its ability to handle longer- range assignments outside the atmosphere, in space.
Asked whether the Aegis/SM system could work as a land-based system, in addition to the current sea-based system, Hicks said that would be possible. “You could do that,” he said, but that “is not part of our program of record.”