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A successful interception test was conducted by the Japanese Aegis destroyer Atago. The system detected and shot down a short-range ballistic missile in space in a joint test with the U.S. Navy, using the SM-3 Block B1 missile.
The event, announced in a release from the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA), was conducted to demonstrate a successful engagement of a target missile from the Japanese guided-missile destroyer using the sea-based midcourse engagement capability provided by Aegis.
The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (Aegis BMD or ABMD) is a US MDA program developed to provide missile defense against short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
The SM-3 B1 is in wide use throughout the US Fleet and is fielded at the Navy’s AEGIS Ashore facility in Romania.
The test, which took place at Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands in Hawaii, was designed to test the installation of the capability in Atago’s combat system.
“This successful test is a major milestone verifying the capabilities of an upgraded Aegis BMD configuration for Japan’s destroyers,” said MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves. “This success provides confidence in the future capability for Japan to defeat the developing threats in the region.”
According to defensenews.com, the Atago destroyer is similar in capabilities and appearance to a U.S. Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
The Japanese currently have been fielding the SM-3 A1 and is working to co-develop the SM-3 Block A2 with the United States.
The advanced model B2 developed with the US is still stuck at the development stage after two failed interception tests.
AEGIS missile defense has had a stellar record overall, with 38 of 47 tests being deemed successful according to MDA numbers when including Tuesday’s test. Two recent Block A2 tests were failures, the more recent one due to a failure in the boost-phase rocket motor and the one prior due to a sailor error that caused the missile to self-destruct.
The U.S. Navy has been growing restless with the BMD patrol mission, arguing that much of it should be moved to AEGIS Ashore sites, freeing up destroyers and cruisers to do other missions and use the BMD capabilities only in emergencies.
The mission, however, has been the driving force behind major technological leaps that have kept the surface navy relevant.