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US tests advanced missile interceptor

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A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 1B interceptor is launched from USS Lake Erie (CG 70) during a Missile Defense Agency test in the mid-Pacific. The SM-3 Block 1B successfully intercepted a short-range ballistic missile target that had been launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii. A US MDA photo

KAUAI, HAWAII (BNS): The US Navy has successfully tested an advanced variant of a sea-based missile interceptor by shooting down a short-range ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

The missile defence test, involving the Raytheon-made Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) Block 1B missile, was conducted by the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the US Navy on May 10.

First, the target ballistic missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, located on Kauai, Hawaii at 8:18 p.m. Hawaiian Standard Time (0618 GMT) and it flew on a northwesterly trajectory towards a broad ocean area of the Pacific Ocean.

Following the target launch, the Navy's Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) detected and tracked the missile with its onboard AN/SPY-1 radar.

Equipped with the second-generation Aegis ballistic missile defence (BMD) weapon system, the missile cruiser then developed a fire control solution and launched the SM-3 Block IB interceptor missile.

The SM-3 manoeuvered to a point in space, as designated by the fire control solution, and released its kinetic warhead. The warhead acquired the target, diverted into its path, and, using only the force of a direct impact, engaged and destroyed the threat in a hit-to-kill intercept, the US MDA said.

This was the first successful live fire intercept test of the SM-3 Block IB interceptor and the second-generation Aegis BMD 4.0.1 weapon system, the Missile Defense Agency said.

A similar test involving the SM-3 Block IB interceptor conducted by it in September 2011 had failed to hit the designated target.

The Standard Missile 3 is a ship-based missile system used by the US Navy to intercept hostile missiles, aircraft and ships as part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System.

The SM-3 Block 1B is an upgraded variant of the SM-3 1A interceptor presently deployed on US Navy warships.

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

According to the MDA, there have been 22 successful intercepts in 27 at-sea attempts since Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense flight testing began in 2002, including the successful intercept of a malfunctioning US satellite by a specially-modified SM-3 Block 1A missile in February, 2008.

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