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Aegis destroyer intercepts ICBM with SM-3 missile in milestone test

SM-3 launch animation
Photo: MDA

The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and US Navy sailors aboard destroyer USS John Finn (DDG-113) intercepted and destroyed a threat-representative intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) target with a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile.

The intercept was part of a flight test demonstration in the broad ocean area northeast of Hawaii, November 16.

As explained by MDA, the ICBM-representative target was launched from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, toward the broad ocean area northeast of Hawaii.

In this developmental test, the destroyer used engage-on-remote capabilities through the Command and Control Battle Management Communications (C2BMC) network as part of a defense of Hawaii scenario. After receiving tracking data from the C2BMC system, the destroyer launched a SM-3 Block IIA guided missile which destroyed the target.

“This was an incredible accomplishment and critical milestone for the Aegis BMD SM-3 Block IIA program,” said MDA Director, Vice Admiral Jon Hill. “The Department is investigating 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.”

“We have demonstrated that an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel equipped with the SM-3 Block IIA missile can defeat an ICBM-class target, which is a step in the process of determining its feasibility as part of an architecture for layered defense of the homeland,” Hill added.

The Missile Defense Agency has also released an interesting animation which illustrates exactly what happened during the intercept test.

Based on preliminary data, the test met its primary objective: demonstrate the ability for a SM-3 Block IIA missile to intercept an ICBM target. Program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

This event, designated Flight Test Aegis Weapon System-44 (FTM-44), was the sixth flight test of an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel using the SM-3 Block IIA guided missile. FTM-44, originally scheduled for May 2020, was delayed due to restrictions in personnel and equipment movement intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Worth noting is that the SM-3 Block IIA was originally designed and built for the Intermediate-range Ballistic Missile threat set.

“This first-of-its-kind test shows that our nation has a viable option for a new layer of defense against long-range threats,” Bryan Rosselli, vice president of Strategic Missile Defense at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, commented. Raytheon co-developed the interceptor with Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

USS John Finn (DDG-113) launching a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile during the test.