COURTESY OF U.S. NAVY
A missile from the Japanese destroyer JS Kongo lifted off en route to intercepting a dummy missile launched yesterday from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. The Japanese ship successfully tracked the target and destroyed the warhead in midair.
Japanese ship successful in test off Kauai
The naval maneuver intercepts a dummy missile in midair
BARKING SANDS, Kauai » The Japanese navy shot down a dummy missile off Kauai yesterday, in the first test by a U.S. ally using the Aegis sea-based missile defense system.
The Japanese destroyer JS Kongo, the lone non-U.S. ship fitted with both radar and weaponry capable of destroying a ballistic missile, was able to track the target, fire its own rocket and destroy the warhead in midair.
The entire test, which happened just after noon, lasted five minutes from target launch to destruction about two miles high and a few hundred miles northwest of Kauai.
About a dozen members of the Japanese media were in attendance, as well as dozens of Japanese military and governmental personnel.
"This was a memorable project," said Japanese Rear Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano. "Japan now has a capable" multilayered defense shield. Japan already has the Patriot ground-based missile defense system, he added.
Lt. Gen. Henry "Trey" Obering III, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said the test will hopefully show countries hostile to the United States and Japan that they should think twice about buying ballistic missiles. "Why invest in these missiles if we can destroy them?" he asked.
While it was the first test of the Aegis system for the Japanese, it will not be the last.
Four Japanese destroyers are set to be upgraded to track and shoot down a ballistic missile. As they are fitted with missiles in the next two years, they will be back at Barking Sands to test their equipment, missile defense agency officials said.
About a dozen countries are participating in the missile defense program, including a number of allied countries with ships capable of tracking ballistic missiles.
The Kongo is the first allied ship that is fully operational, along with the half-dozen American ships deployed around the world. Another 10 U.S. vessels are set to be fully equipped by 2009.