U.S. NAVY / MAY 2006
A missile is launched from the Pearl Harbor-based Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie as part of a U.S. Navy missile-defense demonstration. The USS Lake Erie has been able to hit a drone missile nine out of 11 tries.
Shooter ship is intercept standout
The USS Lake Erie has experience from the Barking Sands site
The Pearl Harbor-based cruiser that will more than likely fire the missile designed to knock down a malfunctioning U.S. spy satellite has been involved in the Navy's ballistic missile intercept test program for the past six years.
The USS Lake Erie has been able to hit a drone missile nine out of 11 tries. In its most recent attempt in November, the Navy warship fired two missiles and intercepted two drones.
There will be three ships involved in the operation, Navy officials told CNN. The Lake Erie, which has been involved in the Pentagon's missile defense testing program off Barking Sands, Kauai, since 2002, will fire the SM-3 missiles, while trajectory information will come from a second ship.
The third ship will serve as backup, Navy officials said.
Spokesmen at Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands and Pacific Air Forces referred all questions concerning the pending missile shoot to the Pentagon. At a Pentagon news conference yesterday, Marine Gen. James Cartwright would not say exactly where the ships would fire from, saying only it will be in the North Pacific.
For the past six years, the Pacific Missile Range Facility off Kauai has been the test site for Navy's ballistic defense system. Drone missiles are fired from Barking Sands and intercepted at sea by SM-3 missiles launched from Navy warships equipped with the Aegis defense system.
There have been 12 missile intercepts in 14 attempts since 2002.
During the Nov. 7 test, the Lake Erie was able to fire two missiles that destroyed two Scud-type missiles launched from the beach. The intercept took place more than 100 miles above the Pacific and 250 miles off Kauai.
Intercepting the satellite at about 149 miles above the Pacific Ocean will reduce the risk of debris in space, Cartwright said. Once the satellite is hit, officials hope 50 percent of the debris will come to Earth in the first two orbits and the rest shortly thereafter, he added.
There are three Aegis cruisers -- Lake Erie, Shiloh and Port Royal -- and six Aegis destroyers -- Decatur, Curtis Wilbur, McCain, Steethem, Fitzgerald and Russell -- in the Pacific Fleet that are capable of intercepting missiles, the Pacific Fleet reported. The Lake Erie, Port Royal and Russell are home-ported at Pearl Harbor.
The skipper of the Lake Erie is Capt. Randall Hendrickson, who assumed command in July 2006 and has been involved in four of the warship's missile shoots.