By Debbie Gregory.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the Japan Ministry of Defense and sailors aboard the USS John Paul Jones successfully conducted a flight test, resulting in the first intercept of a ballistic missile target using the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA off the west coast of Hawaii.
A medium-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii. John Paul Jones detected and tracked the target missile with its onboard AN/SPY-1D(V) radar using the Aegis Baseline 9.C2 weapon system. Upon acquiring and tracking the target, the ship launched an SM-3 Block IIA guided missile which intercepted the target.
“Today’s test demonstrates a critical milestone in the cooperative development of the SM-3 Block IIA missile,” said MDA Director Vice Adm. Jim Syring. “The missile, developed jointly by a Japanese and U.S. government and industry team, is vitally important to both our nations and will ultimately improve our ability to defend against increasing ballistic missile threats around the world.”
The interceptor, designed to shoot down medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, is compatible with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System onboard many Navy ships, several of which are based in Japan.
Ship-based missile interceptors are part of U.S. defense plans in the event of an attack on the U.S. or its allies by North Korea, which has continued to develop its ballistic-missile program despite United Nations sanctions.
As recently as February 12th, North Korea test fired a medium long-range ballistic missile under the supervision of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, KCNA.
Kim was present at the site and personally gave the order for the launch, which was the first missile test by Pyongyang since President Trump took office.