VIDEO: MDA, Navy Down ICBM with Destroyer-Launched Missile Interceptor

November 17, 2020 11:34 AM
A SM-3 Block IIA is launched from the USS John Finn, an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped destroyer, Nov. 16, 2020, as part of Flight Test Aegis Weapons System-44 (FTM-44). MDA Photo

The Navy and the Missile Defense Agency proved that an Aegis ballistic missile defense ship could effectively take down an intercontinental ballistic missile and serve as a backup to a ground-based homeland defense interceptor, the MDA announced on Tuesday.

FTM-44, mandated by Congress, pitted an ICBM target fired from Kwajalein Atoll against USS John Finn (DDG-113) firing the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA BMD interceptor during an early Tuesday morning test off Hawaii, the MDA announced.

Based on the preliminary data, the test was successful.

“FTM-44 satisfies a Congressional mandate to evaluate the feasibility of the SM-3 Block IIA missile’s capability to defeat an ICBM threat before the end of 2020,” reads the MDA statement.

The Raytheon-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries SM-3 Block IIA was originally designed and built for the intermediate-range ballistic missile threat set.

The test was crafted to see if the Aegis BMD system could augment the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) network with the smaller SM-3 Block IIA.

“The Department is investigating the possibility of augmenting the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system by fielding additional sensors and weapon systems to hedge against unexpected developments in the missile threat,” MDA director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said in a Tuesday statement.

“We have demonstrated that an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel equipped with the SM-3 Block IIA missile can defeat an ICBM-class target, which is a step in the process of determining its feasibility as part of an architecture for layered defense of the homeland.”

The flight test is part of work the MDA and the Navy are doing to develop counters to emerging hypersonic weapons.

Key to the effort is how the Navy and MDA are networking sensors aboard the destroyers detecting weapons with other systems that can fire interceptors.

“We can take advantage of terrestrial-based and mobile sea-based systems today to get the tracking data and get that over to a [shooter],”
Hill said in August.
“So we can now take a forward-based ship’s sensor, take what it sees, pass that to a shooting ship and then get the right weapon up to the glide phase. And that’s what we’re working our way through now.”

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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