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US shoots down intermediate-range ballistic missile in space

The U.S. Navy successfully engaged and intercepted an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile target in space during an incremental test of the Aegis Combat System combat system, the Missile Defense Agency said on Tuesday, December 11.

The missile was shot down with an interceptor missile based on ground-based radar track and discrimination data provided by Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC), according to Lockheed Martin, which built the Aegis system.

“This was an operational live fire test demonstrating the Aegis Weapon System Engage On Remote capability to track and intercept an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) target with an Aegis Ashore-launched Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor,” MDA said in a press release.

The test consisted of an IRBM target launched by a U.S. Air Force C-17 thousands of miles from the Aegis Ashore Test Site at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

“The engagement leveraged a ground, air and space-based sensor/command and control architecture,” MDA said.

Based on preliminary data, the test met its objective, the agency said. Program officials will continue to evaluate the system based on data obtained during the test.

In October, the U.S. conducted an interception of a medium-range ballistic missile target with a Standard Missile-3 Block IIA missile during a flight test. It was the first successful test of the interceptor missile since February 2017.

The SM-3 Block IIA is being developed by the U.S. and Japan as part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system. The missile is jointly developed by Raytheon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, with Mitsubishi reportedly managing the third-stage rocket motor and nose cone.

It uses a kinetic warhead to strike the target, the so-called hit-to-kill approach.

The first successful test of the Block IIA variant occurred in 2015, but more recent tests have been hit-and-miss.

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