In test, Japan warship blasts missile launched from Kauai
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
By William Cole
A Japanese destroyer made history off Kaua'i yesterday, shooting down a Scud-like ballistic missile target for the first time in a test aimed at North Korean capabilities, but one sure to raise concern in China.
At 12:05 p.m., the target missile was launched from Barking Sands on Kaua'i. The destroyer JS Kongo tracked the trajectory in the Pacific Missile Range Facility.
At 12:08 p.m. a Standard Missile-3 or SM-3 was fired from the Japanese ship. Three minutes later, reaching speeds of thousands of miles per hour, the interceptor slammed into the target about 100 miles above the ocean.
The Missile Defense Agency called the intercept a "major milestone," and said it marked the first time that an allied Navy ship had successfully destroyed a ballistic missile target with the sea-based engagement capability provided by the Aegis air defense system.
"Today's intercept truly paves the way for Japan to deploy a sea-based ballistic missile defense system," said Ed Miyashiro, Raytheon Missile System's vice president. Raytheon helped build the SM-3.
"The U.S. has gained an important ally that can now defend itself against the threat of ballistic missiles," Miyashiro said.
The intercept marks the 12th successful intercept overall for the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, the sea-based component of the still-developing and multibillion-dollar U.S. missile defense shield.
The Missile Defense Agency and Navy last month for the first time shot down two simulated ballistic missile targets off Kaua'i as the U.S. military heads toward a 2009 goal for operational use.
The November "hit to kill" intercepts marked the 10th and 11th successful intercepts, out of 13 targets. The Kongo, which recently pulled into Pearl Harbor for a stop, tracked the targets for those tests, but did not shoot its own interceptor missiles.
The Aegis ship-based capability is designed to intercept short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats.
The Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy are modifying 15 destroyers and three cruisers to have Aegis ballistic missile defense capabilities.
Sixteen of the 18 Aegis ships with missile shoot-down capability will be based in the Pacific. At least four will be based at Pearl Harbor, including the cruisers Lake Erie and Port Royal, and destroyers Russell and Hopper.
The Japanese are adapting four destroyers for ballistic missile defense. The Lake Erie participated in yesterday's test by tracking the target missile.
In 2003, Japan decided to upgrade its Kongo-class destroyers with the U.S. Navy's Aegis ballistic missile defense capability, according to the Boeing Co., which partnered with Raytheon on the SM-3 interceptor.
The upgrades to Japanese ships are scheduled through 2010, and each will be followed by a flight test to demonstrate the capability.
North Korea alarmed Japan in 1998 when it launched a Taepodong-1 missile that overflew Japan and splashed into the Pacific Ocean.
In July 2006, North Korea test-fired a long-range missile that theoretically could have reached Hawai'i. The missile failed within 42 seconds of liftoff.
According to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, North Korea has built its force to approximately 200 ballistic missiles. Yesterday's test also comes amid a larger arms buildup in the Pacific and with uncertainty about China's military ambitions.
Reach William Cole at email@example.com.
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