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Missile Defense Agency Scores Big on Most Difficult Aegis Target to Date

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The Aegis-class destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) launches a standard missile (SM) 3 Blk IA in July 2009. US Navy Photo

The Aegis-class destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) launches a standard missile (SM) 3 Blk IA in July 2009. US Navy Photo

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is claiming a Navy ballistic missile defense (BMD) first in a Wednesday test that successfully scored a kill on one of the most difficult targets the agency has thrown at a ship.

Aegis guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG-70) fired two Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB to “intercept of a complex separating short-range ballistic missile target,” according to a statement from the MDA.

Lake Erie — using its own AN/SPY-1D radar and with no warning— was able to successfully track and destroy the target creating its own firing solutions for the SM-3s.

“This was an operationally realistic test, in which the target’s launch time and bearing are not known in advance, and the target complex was the most difficult target engaged to date,” according to a Wednesday statement from the MDA.

Aegis maker Lockheed and missile maker Raytheon both said, “the test results demonstrated the growing capability of a system used by the United States and Japan to defend against short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles,” according to a Thursday report in Reuters.

Lake Erie’s test followed a Sept. 10 MDA announcement of a joint Army and Navy test that used SM-3s and Army ground-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system to, “defeat a raid of two near-simultaneous ballistic missile targets,” near the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll/Reagan Test Site in the South Pacific, the MDA said last week.

According to agency, the “U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System programs have completed 63 successful hit-to-kill intercepts in 78 flight test attempts since 2001.”