A Standard Missile-3, or SM-3, was launched yesterday from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie during a ballistic missile flight test. Minutes later the SM-3 intercepted a missile target launched from Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility.
Pearl ship scores hit in missile intercept
BARKING SANDS, Kauai » For the first time, a Pearl Harbor-based ship launched a missile yesterday that successfully destroyed a dummy warhead from a medium-range missile.
The launch, the seventh test for Aegis, the maritime component of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, was the first time a multistage rocket was used. The previous tests, six of which were successful, all involved single-structure targets representative of Scud-type ballistic missiles.
Sensors and sailors aboard the USS Lake Erie, an Aegis cruiser, had to differentiate between the warhead and its booster rocket, making the test more difficult, said Chris Taylor, communications director with ballistic missile defense.
Medium- and long-range ballistic missiles typically have at least two rocket-motor stages.
Under clear skies the target missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai at 8:12 a.m., with a white plume visible for miles.
Ten minutes later the warhead was intercepted by USS Lake Erie's missile, more than 100 miles in space above the Pacific Ocean and 375 miles northwest of Kauai, according to a missile defense press release.
Sailors aboard the USS Lake Erie, as well as those aboard the USS Hopper, also stationed off Kauai to provide surveillance and tracking, were not told of the exact time of the launch. They were given a several-hour window this morning, operating under the scenario that "hostile forces" were preparing to launch a ballistic missile against a friendly nation.
The military's ground-based missile defense system in Alaska has successfully intercepted separating targets in five out of the eight attempts.
Taylor said the military would take data from the test to fine-tune future tests and computer programs behind the system.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.