A missile launched by the destroyer Decatur on Tuesday hit and destroyed a ballistic-missile target as part of a joint missile-defense test in the western Pacific. (MC3 Sean Furey / Navy)
A U.S. destroyer tracked and destroyed an overhead ballistic missile as one of two successful shootdowns in a joint exercise early Tuesday in the western Pacific.
A Standard Missile-3 fired from the destroyer Decatur “successfully intercepted” a medium range ballistic missile target fired on an “operationally realistic” flight path, the Defense Department said in a news release Tuesday. In addition to Decatur, soldiers with Alpha Battery, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, shot down an incoming missile, making the exercise 2-for-2, in a live-fire test near Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
“All of our tests are hit-to-kill,” explained Missile Defense Agency spokesman Rick Lehner, when asked about what type of hit the target sustained. “They have to come into contact with the target to destroy it.”
The test results were a success for the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system, which is becoming the future of the destroyer fleet, and the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, in demonstrating layered tracking and intercept capabilities against realistic ballistic targets.
It’s the third straight successful Aegis BMD test, according to the MDA’s official record; the system hasn’t missed a target since a joint test last October and has 26 intercepts in 32 at-sea tests. THAAD hasn’t missed since tests began in 2006, MDA records show — 11 hits in 14 tests, with three exercises considered “no tests” because of target malfunctions.
Other elements of the missile shield have seen more mixed results. A long-range interceptor fired from the California coast failed to intercept its ballistic target in a July 5 test, the third failure in a row for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD.