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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 23, 2006

Missile passes another test

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

The Aegis cruiser USS Shiloh fired a Standard Missile-3 yesterday during a joint Missile Defense Agency-U.S. Navy ballistic missile test off the coast of Kaua'i. Two minutes after the launch, the missile hit the warhead of a rocket fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kaua'i.

U.S. Navy

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LIHU'E, Kaua'i The Navy and the Missile Defense Agency announced a successful missile intercept off Kaua'i yesterday in a program lent additional significance in light of North Korea's insistence on conducting its own long-range missile testing.

A Navy Standard Missile-3 shot down the warhead portion of a two-stage target rocket fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on West Kaua'i. It was the seventh actual hit in eight tries for the nation's sea-based anti-ballistic missile defense program.

The experiment used "hit to kill" technology, in which the target is destroyed by the energy of impact from the interceptor missile.

"We are continuing to see great success with the very challenging technology of hit-to-kill, a technology that is used for all of our missile defense ground- and sea-based interceptor missiles," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry "Trey" Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency.

Obering, who had been scheduled to be on Kaua'i for the test, remained on the Mainland, "due to current events," a Missile Defense Agency spokesman said.

North Korea has announced plans for a test firing of its Taepodong-2, over the objection of the United States and Asian nations.

In yesterday's U.S. test, a target rocket was fired about noon from the Kaua'i missile range. Two minutes later, the USS Shiloh, an Aegis-class cruiser, had detected the launch and launched its interceptor. The missile defense system tracked the target, and the Standard Missile's warhead crashed into the target warhead four minutes after it left Kaua'i. The impact occurred about 100 miles high and 250 miles northwest of Kaua'i, the Missile Defense Agency said in a news release.

It was the second successful intercept of a separating target missile, in which the warhead had left its booster rocket, and the interceptor was able to distinguish between the two and go after the warhead.

It was the first time the cruiser Shiloh had been used for this function. The cruiser has been modified for the missile defense mission, including upgrades to its SPY-1 radar. The ship also carried a new version of the technology to shoot down ballistic missiles, called the Ballistic Missile Defense 3.6 Weapon System.

Previous interceptors in the series were fired from the Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie, which was present during this test. Three Aegis destroyers also participated, one of them from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. It was the first time an ally's ship participated in one of the Aegis missile intercept tests.

The missile defense test originally had been scheduled for Wednesday, but was delayed because a boat entered the launch safety zone.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com.