U.S. conducts successful test of ballistic-missile interceptor system co-developed with Japan

AFP-JIJI, Reuters

The U.S. military successfully conducted a test Tuesday of a new ballistic-missile interceptor system, which is being developed jointly with Japan.

The launch marks the second successful test in under two months for the SM-3 Block IIA missile and its associated technologies, which had previously experienced failures.

According to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), sailors at the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, tracked and intercepted an intermediate-range missile with an SM-3.

The target in Tuesday’s test was an air-launched missile, fired from a U.S. Air Force C-17 plane over the ocean thousands of miles southwest of the Aegis Ashore system.

“The engagement leveraged a ground, air and space-based sensor/command and control architecture,” the MDA said in a statement.

In October, the U.S. military successfully shot down a medium-range ballistic missile with an SM-3.

That successful operation came after two failed intercept tests in June 2017 and January 2018.

A test firing in February 2017 had been successful.

In August, the Pentagon was given the mandate to pursue more options for defeating U.S.-bound North Korean missiles by using radar and more missiles to spot and shoot down inbound threats.

The MDA said this year that America had so far spent about $2.2 billion on the system and that Japan had contributed about $1 billion.

The military has been exploring whether the United States can add another layer of defenses to those already in place for intercepting incoming missiles.

The SM-3 IIA is expected to be deployed at U.S. Aegis Ashore stations in Romania and Poland. The Polish section of the defense shield is expected to be operational in 2020. The U.S. switched on the missile shield in Romania in 2016, angering Russia.

Earlier this month, the United States delivered Russia a 60-day ultimatum to come clean about what Washington says is a violation of an arms control treaty that keeps certain missiles out of Europe.

In 2017, Japan decided it would expand its ballistic missile defense system with U.S.-made ground-based Aegis radar stations and interceptors in response to North Korean rockets.

The SM-3 Block IIA missile — made by arms giant Raytheon — is a key piece of NATO’s missile defense system.

“This system is designed to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies and friends from a real and growing ballistic missile threat,” MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said.