The U.S. Navy has shot down an intercontinental ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean with an SM-3 Block IIA missile in a milestone test that demonstrated a potential scheme to defend Hawaii, the Missile Defense Agency announced Tuesday morning.
The test, which comes on the heels of the revealing of a larger North Korean ICBM in October that could potentially strike the U.S. East Coast, is the first time the United States has shot down an ICBM with anything other than a ground-based interceptor, an MDA official said.
Just before 1 a.m. Eastern Time, MDA oversaw a test where a missile was fired from Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll toward the open ocean northeast of Hawaii. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer John Finn, equipped with Aegis Baseline 9, received a track from an external sensor through the Command and Control Battle Management Communications network.
The ship then fired on and destroyed the target with the SM-3IIA, the release said.
In a statement, the head of the MDA said it was a big accomplishment for the agency and showed how a potential defense of Hawaii scheme could work in conjunction with ground-based interceptors now based in Alaska.
“This was an incredible accomplishment and critical milestone for the Aegis BMD SM-3 Block IIA program,” said Vice Adm. Jon Hill. “The Department is investigating the possibility of augmenting the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system by fielding additional sensors and weapon systems to hedge against unexpected developments in the missile threat.
“We have demonstrated that an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel equipped with the SM-3 Block IIA missile can defeat an ICBM-class target, which is a step in the process of determining its feasibility as part of an architecture for layered defense of the homeland.”