AP PHOTO / DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
In a $40 million test yesterday, two modified Standard Missile-2 rockets were fired from the USS Lake Erie, destroying a Scud-type missile fired from the decommissioned Tripoli off Kauai. One of the two interceptor missiles that was launched is shown here.
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KAPAA, KAUAI » The Navy and the Ballistic Missile Defense Agency have once again knocked a missile out of the air off the coast of Kauai.
But unlike most of the previous tests, this one was designed to destroy a target rocket in the last seconds of its flight.
In yesterday's $40 million test, two modified Standard Missile-2 rockets were fired from the USS Lake Erie and destroyed a Scud-type missile fired from a platform on the decommissioned Tripoli.
The two missiles, using blast fragmented warheads, as opposed to the hit-to-kill warheads used in most previous tests, destroyed the target missile 50 to 70 seconds before impact, roughly 12 miles above the Pacific Ocean and 100 miles northwest of Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility, said Rear Adm. Brad Hicks, Aegis program director.
Two missiles, using the blast warheads, give the system a greater chance of success, Hicks said. In previous tests, one missile was launched with hit-to-kill warheads, and they destroyed missiles in midflight and above the atmosphere.
The modified Aegis sea-based computer system and modified Standard Missile-2 tested yesterday would fill in a gap in the nation's missile defense, especially where short-range sea-based missiles are concerned, Hicks added.
"We're pretty excited about it," he continued. The new system "gives them a capability they were asking for."
While on land the Patriot missile shield is designed to take out short-range missiles, the ability to have a sea-based system capable of taking out short- and medium-range missiles provides a "gap filler," the admiral said.
A previous test, in May 2006, also destroyed a missile in its terminal phase of flight, and led to the modification in software and the missiles themselves.
Currently 20 of the SM-2 missiles have been modified to take out a target in its terminal phase, Hicks said.
Those missiles, along with the software upgrades, will be implemented starting in October, and after the missile defense agency breaks down the data from yesterday's test.
The implementation on the 18 Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers will take 20 months, Hicks added.
The current upgrade in weapons systems will cost $120 million, with a cost of $150,000 per ship for the computer upgrade, he continued.
The next test off Barking Sands is scheduled for later this year and will involve the Japanese navy's Aegis system, the admiral said.