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Aegis BMD System Intercepts Mock Warhead

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMD) successfully intercepted a mock-warhead above the earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean May 15, Pentagon officials said.

A separating short-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, on Kauai, Hawaii, an MDA statement indicated. “Initial indications are that all components performed as designed,” the statement reads.

The test exercised the latest version of the second-generation Aegis BMD Weapon System and Standard Missile, providing capability for engagement of longer-range and more sophisticated ballistic missiles, the statement added.

“This continues to demonstrate the validity of the Aegis Weapons System and the Standard Missile-3 Block IB missile,” said Rick Lehner, an MDA spokesman.

The Aegis BMD 4.0 Weapon System is essentially the integrated technology, consisting of hardware and software, needed to ensure the fire control system works to properly launch the interceptor missile and guide it to its intended target, Lehner explained.

The test was conducted by Navy sailors aboard the USS Lake Erie, a guided-missile cruiser, which detected and tracked the missile with its on-board AN/SPY-1 radar, an electronically scanned array which is part of the Aegis Weapon System.

“The ship, equipped with the second-generation Aegis BMD weapon system, developed a fire control solution and launched the SM-3 Block IB missile. The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space based on guidance from Aegis BMD Weapons Systems and released its kinetic warhead. The kinetic warhead acquired the target reentry vehicle, diverted into its path, and, using only the force of a direct impact, engaged and destroyed the target,” an MDA statement reads.

Lehner also added that the SM-3 1B missile has a more advanced seeker and more advanced “attitude control system,” when compared with prior models of the missile such as the SM-3 Block 1A missile.

“The attitude control system is a small system of rocket motors that maneuvers the kill vehicle in space,” he added.

Aegis BMD’s upgraded signal processor enables the Navy to defeat more sophisticated ballistic missile threats as a result of improved target identification capabilities, according to a press statement from Lockheed Martin, maker of the Aegis Weapon System 4.0.

“On the ship system and the missile there are capabilities built into the system to do what we call discrimination of the target complex where the radar on the ship and the seeker on the missile look at the scene that’s presented and take measurements. They determine the proper object to engage from those measurements,” said Nick Bucci, director of BMD development programs for Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training.

The computing suite on the system is designed to accommodate future upgrades and integrate future improvements as they become available, according to a Lockheed statement.

The test of the MDA’s BMD system, including the Aegis Weapon System 4.0 as well as the SM-3 Block IB are also significant with regard to the Pentagon’s longer term Aegis Ashore program, referred to as a European Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA).

The Aegis Ashore plan calls for an effort to build and insert land-based SM-3 Block 1B missiles at fixed sites in Romania and Poland, by 2015 and 2017, respectively.

The concept is for the “fixed” or land sites to work in tandem with Aegis ships within range in order to widen the BMD protective envelope across wider swaths of the globe, improving protection for the continental U.S. and key U.S. allies.

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