US downs dummy ballistic missile in successful test
A missile fired from a U.S. Navy ship off Kauai, Hawaii, intercepted and destroyed a mock warhead on Thursday, the fifth success in six such test of the fledgling U.S. anti-missile shield's sea-based leg, the Pentagon announced.
"We had a successful hit-to-kill intercept," said Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency.
The ship fired a Standard Missile (SM)-3 at the target outside the earth's atmosphere during the descent phase of flight, Lockheed said. Raytheon Co. is developing the SM-3.
The Defense Department plans to field up to 30 SM-3 missiles on Aegis-equipped ships by 2007 to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in mid-flight. Other systems are being developed to defend at different stages.
For the ground-based mid-course leg of ballistic missile defense, managed for the Pentagon by Boeing Co., five of eight shoot down tests have been completed successfully.
Interceptor missiles failed to launch from their silos in the last two ground-based tests because of hardware and software glitches.
The Pentagon plans to spend roughly $10 billion a year over the next five years on all aspects of missile defense. The initial "layered" shield is designed to thwart missiles that could be fired from North Korea, possibly tipped with nuclear, chemical or germ warheads.
Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed, the Pentagon's No. 1 supplier, calls Aegis the world's premier naval defense system, capable of defending against air, surface and underwater threats.
Currently deployed on 68 U.S. Navy cruisers and destroyers, the Aegis system is also being supplied to Spain, Japan, South Korea, Norway and Australia.