US stages 'most challenging' missile-defense test

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US stages 'most challenging' missile-defense test
The combo photo released by Missile Defense Agency of the US Department of Defense shows an SM-3 Block IA missile being launched from the Navy's Aegis destroyer USS O'KANE located to the west of Hawaii.[Xinhua]

The US Department of Defense on Friday announced the military has successfully conducted the " most challenging test to date" of its ballistic missile defense system, firing an interceptor from an Aegis destroyer to blast an intermediate-range missile over the Pacific Ocean.

According to the Missile Defense Agency, the test was conducted jointly by the Navy's Aegis destroyer USS O'KANE, and the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command. The test started at 2:52 am Eastern time, when an intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, approximately 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii.

According to the agency, the missile flew in a northeasterly direction toward a broad ocean area in the Pacific Ocean. Following target launch, a ground-based transportable radar located on Wake Island detected and tracked it. The radar sent trajectory information to the command system, which processed and transmitted remote target data to the USS O'KANE, which was located to the west of Hawaii.

The destroyer then used the data to develop a fire control solution and launch an SM-3 Block IA missile approximately 11 minutes after the target was launched. The ship's Aegis weapon system then uplinked target track information to the interceptor, and it destroyed the threat in a "hit-to-kill" intercept using force of a direct impact.

"Initial indications are that all components performed as designed," said the agency.

The agency said the test was "the most challenging test to date, " as the engagement relied on remote tracking data for the first time to intercept an intermediate-range target. The agency said ability to use remote radar data to engage a threat ballistic missile greatly increases the battle space and defended area of the SM-3 missile.

This test is the 21st successful intercept, in 25 attempts, for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense program since flight testing began in 2002. The last two intercept tests of a separate US ground-based missile defense, aimed at protecting US soil, have failed.

Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense is the sea-based midcourse component of the Ballistic Missile Defense System and is designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats.

The "successful test demonstrated the capability of the first phase" of the European missile shield announced by President Barack Obama in September 2009, the agency said.

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