Fri, Feb 15, 2013 - Page 1 News List

US missile defense test successful

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

The US has successfully conducted another flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, intercepting a medium-range ballistic missile over the Pacific near Hawaii.

Senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center Rick Fisher said on Wednesday that the timing of the test “cannot be ignored.”

It was significant, he said, that the test was conducted after North Korea’s third nuclear test, its reported imminent test of a new ballistic missile and China’s “aggressiveness” in the East China Sea.

“A robust American missile defense capability is directly relevant to the security of Taiwan, Japan and South Korea in that it deters both North Korea and China by creating doubt about the success of their missiles,” Fisher said.

However, Fisher stressed that a purely missile defense strategy for Taiwan — or the US — was being made untenable by China’s and North Korea’s growing missile arsenals.

“It is simply too expensive for the defender to deter the numbers of missiles China and North Korea can produce,” he said.

It would be far more efficient, he said, to build offensive missiles that could hold Chinese and North Korean assets at risk “much as they are doing to the democracies in Asia.”

Fisher said that Washington had “quietly” changed its previous caution about allied Asian offensive missile capabilities.

He said it now needed to help “rationalize” new allied offensive missile capabilities if non-nuclear deterrence was to survive in Asia into the next decade.

The latest BMD test was carried out by US Navy sailors aboard the USS Lake Erie using a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 1A guided missile.

A target ballistic missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.

An in-orbit tracking system detected and tracked the target and the second-generation Aegis BMD weapon was launched five minutes later.

“The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space and released its kinetic warhead,” a statement from the US Department of Defense said.

“The kinetic warhead acquired the target re-entry vehicle, diverted into its path, and, using only the force of a direct impact, engaged and destroyed the target,” the statement said.

“Initial indications are that all components performed as designed,” the Department of Defense said.

The Department of Defense said that the test was a demonstration of the ability of space-based “assets” to provide mid-course fire control quality data to an Aegis BMD ship “extending the battlespace, providing the ability for longer-range intercepts and defense of larger areas.”

It was the 24th successful intercept in 30 flight test attempts for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002.

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