The Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA, the latest in the line of U.S. interceptor missiles designed for the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, failed to hit its target in its third intercept test on Jan. 31 after being launched from the Aegis Ashore test site in Hawaii. At a Feb. 1 press briefing, Pentagon spokesperson Dana White confirmed that the test “did not meet our objectives.” A Missile Defense Agency (MDA) statement later that day, however, said that “much was still learned that demonstrated an increase in the effective range” of the overall ballistic missile defense system.
At a Feb. 12 press briefing, Gary Pennett, MDA director of operations, said officials had isolated the failure to the missile itself rather than any sensor or control system in the “engage on remote” apparatus. This was the second failure in three intercept tests of the missile, which is currently being developed jointly by Raytheon Co. and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The system is set to begin deployment this year on U.S. Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ships, as well as at an Aegis Ashore site in Poland as part of the third phase of the so-called European Phased Adaptive Approach. (See ACT, June 2016.) This latest failure raises questions about whether the current deployment schedule can be met.
The Block IIA is a larger and faster version of previous SM-3 missiles. It boasts an improved range and was designed to engage medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the midcourse phase of flight.—MACLYN SENEAR