The U.S. military said it had successfully completed its most challenging missile intercept test yet, using Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co hardware to shoot down an intermediate-range ballistic target over the Pacific.
The test, which took place Friday west of Hawaii, validated capabilities required in the first phase of President Barack Obama's revamped approach to defending Europe and U.S. forces deployed there, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, or MDA, said in a statement.
The Obama administration is racing this year to wrap up the initial phase of a layered, multibillion-dollar antimissile bulwark in Europe. U.S. officials describe it as a hedge against missiles that could be fired by Iran and perhaps tipped with chemical, biological or nuclear warheads.
Obama's so-called Phased Adaptive Approach also is designed to boost defenses against North Korea, another focus of U.S. antimissile efforts. Ultimately, it is to add to the existing ground-based defenses of U.S. soil as the technology improves.
The event Friday, dubbed Flight Test Standard Missile-15 (FTM-15), was the most challenging test to date, the MDA said.
It marked the first time that Lockheed's shipboard Aegis combat system had been used to intercept a target with a range greater than 3,000 kms (1,864 miles) and the first such Aegis test to rely on missile tracking data gathered by another remote radar station.
The ability to use remote radar data to engage a threat ballistic missile greatly increases the battle space and defended area of the SM-3 (interceptor) missile built by Raytheon and used to destroy the target, the statement said.
Previous sea-based Aegis intercept tests have featured shorter-range targets.
FTM-15 was the 21st successful intercept in 25 attempts for the Aegis program since flight testing began in 2002, the MDA said. Across all elements of the layered antimissile system, it was the 45th successful intercept in 58 flight tests since 2001, the statement said.
The last two intercept tests of a U.S. ground-based antimissile bulwark, managed by Boeing Co and aimed at protecting U.S. soil from even longer-range missiles, have failed.
In the test Friday, an intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched in a northeasterly direction from Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, about 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii.
A Raytheon-built, forward-based AN/TPY-2 X-band transportable radar, located on Wake Island, detected and tracked the target missile, MDA said.
The radar sent flight path information to a battle management system that relayed cues to the destroyer O'Kane, which was to the west of Hawaii. The ship used the data to aim and launch Raytheon's SM-3 Block IA missile 11 minutes after the target was launched, MDA said.
Initial indications are that all components performed as designed, it said.
(Editing by Bill Trott)