Sea-Based Missile Defense Test Success a Major Step Forward

In the wee hours of the morning of April 15, the U.S. Navy conducted a successful test of its Aegis ballistic missile defense system.

The test marks a major milestone in U.S. missile defense capabilities because it signals that the Aegis system’s existing interceptor, the Standard Missile-3 Block IA (SM-3 IA), likely has an inherent capability to counter strategic missiles. This is because the target missile destroyed in this intercept test, which is of intermediate range, has characteristics that are not that different from strategic missiles. On this basis, the U.S. may be able to accelerate the fielding of sea-based missile defenses, as well as their land-based counterpart (called Aegis Ashore), for countering strategic missiles well in advance of the current 2020 target date.

The LV-2 target missile, which has a range of between 1,864 miles and 3,418 miles, was launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The USS O’Kane, a navy destroyer, launched the SM-3 IA interceptor from a location west of Hawaii. The interceptor was launched approximately 11 minutes after the launch of the target. The interceptor destroyed the target at a point in space over the Pacific Ocean by direct impact.

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