PHOTO COURTESY U.S. NAVY
A missile launched yesterday from the Aegis cruiser USS Shiloh intercepted a target missile launched from Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility, the seventh successful test of the Navy's Aegis ballistic missile defense system. CLICK FOR LARGE
Navy aces missile interception
A cruiser shoots down a test target launched from Barking Sands for a 7-1 success score
BARKING SANDS, Kauai » For the seventh time in eight tries, a ship-based missile hit its intended ballistic missile target yesterday off Kauai's coast.
The test, the first to include a Japanese naval vessel equipped with tracking equipment, checked the ability of the Navy's portion of the ballistic missile defense system.
At about noon yesterday, the USS Shiloh, an Aegis-class cruiser from San Diego, tracked the target missile fired from Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility and destroyed the target warhead using only the rocket's kinetic energy, ballistic missile defense officials said.
The whole test took about six minutes from launch to collision, while the contact occurred more than 100 miles above the Pacific and 250 miles northwest of Kauai.
It was USS Shiloh's first test since being fitted with the tracking and communication systems, officials said, and the test also involved upgrades in weapon system configuration and a new missile configuration.
It also was the second attempt by a ship to shoot down a separating target. The first came in November when the USS Lake Erie successfully shot down a multistage target in another test.
The achievement is considered significant because medium- and long-range ballistic missiles typically have at least two stages.
Intercepting such missiles after they separate is difficult because sensors must be able to distinguish between the body of the missile and the warhead.
The Japanese ship, the Kirishima, performed long-range surveillance and tracking exercises. Japan agreed to jointly develop missile defense technology with the United States late last year, broadening an earlier bilateral research pact.
Tokyo became interested in acquiring and developing missile defense technology after the last North Korean ballistic missile defense test, in 1998, when Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan's main island.
Two Aegis warships are already patrolling the water near North Korea, but they are only equipped with radar and not the interceptor missiles, according to an earlier report. The Navy is installing missile tracking radar and intercept missiles on 18 of its Pacific Fleet warships, to be completed by 2009.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.