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Navy to target drone


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POSTED: Wednesday, July 29, 2009

For the 23rd time, the Navy will attempt to intercept a short-range ballistic missile off the coast of Kauai.

The Aegis destroyer USS Hopper, based at Pearl Harbor, is slated tomorrow to fire an interceptor missile during the test, dubbed “;Stellar Avenger.”;

The 505-foot Hopper will attempt to hit the target, a drone launched from Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, in flight with a Standard Missile-3 armed with a kinetic, or nonexplosive, warhead. The force of impact is expected to destroy the drone.

Also participating in the at-sea missile defense test will be the Pearl Harbor Aegis cruiser Lake Erie, which has been the launch ship in at least 12 missile intercept tests beginning in 2002, and the destroyer USS O'Kane.

The O'Kane has been designated as a shadow ship and will track and conduct a simulated SM-3 launch. The Lake Erie, which was recently upgraded with improved Aegis ballistic missile defenses, will perform surveillance and track operations with its new sophisticated SPY radar and also will conduct a simulated missile launch.

However, only the Hopper will fire an actual intercept missile.

The Hopper was part of a November test when two short-range ballistic missile targets were launched from Kauai. An SM-3 fired from the USS Paul Hamilton, a destroyer based at Pearl Harbor, directly hit the first target missile. The USS Hopper failed to intercept the second target missile.

Last year the Lake Erie launched a modified SM-3 missile in the Navy's first-of-its-kind missile shot to destroy a malfunctioning spy satellite.

Meanwhile, the Missile Defense Agency completed a joint test last week with Israel to see how well the Arrow missile anti-missile system—a mobile missile launcher designed to protect Israel against ballistic missiles—would function with other elements of the U.S. missile defense system. Those elements include the terminal high-altitude area defense program, which deployed mobile missile interceptors to Barking Sands late last month when it was reported that North Korea threatened to test its ballistic missiles.

USS HOPPER (DDG 70)

» Class: 20th of 38 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers authorized by Congress

» Commissioned: 1997

» Namesake: Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper, known as the “;Grand Lady of Software,”; “;Amazing Grace”; and “;Grandma Cobol”; after co-inventing COBOL (common business-oriented language). COBOL made it possible for computers to respond to words instead of just numbers, thus enabling computers to “;talk to each other.”;

» Armament: Tomahawk cruise missiles and standard surface-to-air missiles. Two fully automated radar-controlled Phalanx close-in weapon systems, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two triple torpedo tubes, one 5-inch gun and electronic warfare systems

» Home port: Pearl Harbor

» Crew: 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 302 sailors

» Length: 505 feet

» Beam: 67 feet

» Weight: 8,500 tons fully loaded

» Engines: Four gas turbine engines

» Speed: More than 30 knots

Source: U.S. Navy