WASHINGTON — Japanese Aegis destroyer Atago detected and shot down a short-range ballistic missile in space Tuesday in a joint test with the U.S. Navy using the SM-3 Block IB missile, according to a release from the Missile Defense Agency.
The test, which took place at Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands in Hawaii, was designed to test the installation of the capability in Atago's combat system, the release said.
“This successful test is a major milestone verifying the capabilities of an upgraded Aegis BMD configuration for Japan’s destroyers,” said MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves. “This success provides confidence in the future capability for Japan to defeat the developing threats in the region.”
The Atago is similar in capabilities and appearance to a U.S. Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
The Japanese currently have been fielding the SM-3 IA and is working to co-develop the SM-3 Block IIA with the United States. The SM-3 IB is in wide use throughout the US Fleet and is fielded at the Navy’s AEGIS Ashore facility in Romania.
AEGIS missile defense has had a stellar record overall, with 38 of of 47 tests being deemed successful according to MDA numbers when including Tuesday's test. Two recent Block IIA tests were failures, the more recent one due to a failure in the boost-phase rocket motor and the one prior due to a sailor error that caused the missile to self-destruct.
The U.S. Navy has been growing restless with the BMD patrol mission, arguing that much of it should be moved to AEGIS Ashore sites, freeing up destroyers and cruisers to do other missions and use the BMD capabilities only in emergencies.
The mission, however, has been the driving force behind major technological leaps that have kept the surface navy relevant.
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.