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US Navy SM-6 missile fails to intercept ballistic missile target in latest test

USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) launches a Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) during a live-fire test of the ship's aegis weapons system
Illustration: US Navy file photo of a destroyer launching an SM-6 missile

The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the US Navy have failed to intercept a medium range ballistic missile target in an Aegis weapon system test on May 29.

The objective of the latest test, dubbed Flight Test Aegis Weapon System 31 Event 1, was to demonstrate the capability of a ballistic missile defense (BMD)-configured Aegis ship to intercept a ballistic missile target.

According to the MDA, two SM-6 missiles launched by an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer failed to track, engage and intercept the target.

“Program officials have initiated an extensive review to determine the cause of any problems which may have prevented a successful intercept and will thoroughly analyze the results,” MDA said.

The failed test follows a more successful one from November last year, when 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.

SM-3 is designed to defeat short- to intermediate-range, unitary and separating, midcourse-phase, ballistic missile threats, while SM-6 is designed to intercept ballistic missiles during the terminal phase of their flight.

The SM-6 is a dual-capability missile that can be used for either air defense or ballistic missile defense.

In a more recent test, the navy used unmanned systems to successfully guide an SM-6 to a long-range target well beyond the line of sight.