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  • 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.

    The key to the success of this test was that multiple sensors—including the Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites (STSS), the AN/TPY-2 X-ban forward-deployed ground-based radar based on Wake Island, and the O’Kane’s own radar—all contributed data to the 3.6.1 version of the Aegis Weapons System in order to develop a firing solution. This permitted the O’Kane, for the first time in a ballistic missile intercept test using this version of the Aegis Weapons System, to launch its interceptor on the basis of remote data. It is hard to overemphasize the great advancement for missile defense that this “launch on remote” capability represents.

    It is also important to understand the nature of the LV-2 target missile used in this test. The LV-2 target uses the first- and second-stage rocket motors of the Trident I (C4) sea-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). For the purposes of arms control, the Trident I SLBM has been categorized as a strategic missile. Until now, the Obama Administration has assumed that it would require the development and deployment of a new version of the SM-3 interceptor, called the Block IIB, to obtain the capability to use the Aegis ballistic missile defense system to counter strategic missiles. The SM-3 IIB is not projected to be available until 2020. The success of this test shows that there is an alternative path to achieving a defense against strategic missiles using the Aegis system at an earlier date.

    Missile defense supporters have been pointing out that the Aegis ballistic missile defense program could be made even more capable for some time. Accordingly, Congress can use this alternative path to making the Aegis ballistic missile defense system as capable as it can be by directing the missile defense program to take several steps.

    The first is to continue to refine U.S. space capabilities to support ballistic missile defense. The STSS has demonstrated the ability to track ballistic missiles in flight from launch to impact, or “birth to death” tracking. Congress should make sure that limits are not placed on U.S. space-based capabilities because of misguided complaints about “weaponizing” space.

    Second, Congress should make sure that innovative navy solutions to missile defense command-and-control arrangements are supported by the Missile Defense Agency and the other services. This means that non-navy sensor systems, such as the AN/TPY-2 radar, are linked to the Aegis Weapons System in as seamless a fashion as possible and that needless layers in the overall command-and-control structure for ballistic missile defense are eliminated.

    Finally, Congress should direct that the navy conduct an intercept test of an available version of the SM-3 interceptor, which may be a Block IA or IB, against a strategic ballistic missile as soon as it is technically feasible. If this requires providing additional resources to the missile defense program, Congress should appropriate them.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Sea-Based Missile Defense Test Success a Major Step Forward

    1. West Texan says:

      Bravo Zulu to the Aegis team. Thanks for sharing Baker.

    2. LIMERICK ARKANSAS says:

      Let us not forget for whom the U.S.S. O'Kane is named.

      jl

    3. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Baker Spring, thanks. I'll remember your name. Brilliant Article, and it gives me tremendous relief that Aegis can close the Missile Defense Window of vulnerability we feared. NewSTART presages even more deadly pacts with the former Soviet, why else would they name it so? It reminds me of the Dawn naming of the Libyan morrass. More Libyas to come! Obama dashed our military against the rocks, excellent for the Foreign Interest. Heritage Foundation is that Think Tank of which Americans can be proud.

      Delicately put, but the Weaponization Of Space is a marvelous generality able to hide an enormous number of sins. Star Wars Efforts have yielded fruit, thank Ronald Reagan. To have a resolution on target is the stuff of intercepting astroids, thank NASA. I am still sorry we sold the Russians our precision ball bearings, "What were we thinking?" That was when Soviets magically became dumbacratic! "Our 'friends' the Russians have managed to check our Missile Defenses with NewSTART but it is too late! We already have a viable Missile Shield! We don't need the Missiles in Ukraine for our sake, it was like we said strictly defense for Europe!

      I am sick of defending the Society Of Bums, Socialist Europe? We may for the first time be able to get away from the drain. They party? Americans Pay! It may not be futile to consider some kind of modified Isolationism? Sure the World is interconnected, but if those interconnections drain America? America would clearly benefit when you consider what Donald Trump said, we have bad deals with everybody in the whole world! The US has a chance today to get out of the slavery that is defending Europe from their own stupidity!

      Now that America is Communist, we are too stupid to be Police for the Whole World! But, lucky us, we can still defend ourselves at home! (Not from Domestic Enemies. We have met the Enemy. He is us.)

    4. Tim AZ says:

      There is a disturbing truth in this article, and that is that we could not have made this stride in missile defense if Mao-Bama would have believed that LV-2 target missile could be successfully as an interceptor missile. More proof that good always triumphs over evil. Had enough yet?

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