U.S. Missile Defense Program: Marching Forward

Michaela Dodge /

Yet again, critics of the U.S. missile defense program have been proven wrong.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Navy conducted a successful test of its Aegis ballistic missile defense system using its newest ballistic missile defense interceptor, the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB.

The interceptor, developed by the Raytheon Company, was fired from the USS Lake Erie and engaged and destroyed a short-range ballistic missile target launched off the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. The USS Lake Erie is equipped with the second-generation Aegis ballistic missile defense 4.0.1 weapons system. This was the first successful live fire intercept test of the SM-3 Block IB interceptor and the second-generation weapons system.

This more advanced interceptor is the cornerstone of the second phase (2015 timeframe) of the Phased Adaptive Approach, the Obama Administration’s plan for the protection of U.S. allies and U.S. homeland in its later phases (2020 timeframe). The interceptor is capable of engaging more sophisticated longer range ballistic missiles that may be launched in larger raid sizes. The interceptor’s two-colored infrared seeker improves its sensitivity for longer-range target acquisition and discrimination.

While this is the 22nd successful intercept in 27 flight test attempts for the Aegis missile defense program, the proponents have been pointing out that the Aegis ballistic missile defense program could be made even more capable with existing interceptors (SM-3 Block IA and IB). The Navy should conduct an intercept test against a strategic missile as soon as it is technically feasible. In addition, it is important that innovative Navy solutions to missile defense command-and-control arrangements are supported by the Missile Defense Agency and the other services.

This means that non-Navy sensor systems, such as the AN/TPY-2 radar, are linked to the Aegis system in as seamless a fashion as possible and that needless layers in the overall command-and-control structure for ballistic missile defense are eliminated. Equally important is preventing arms control measures from limiting U.S. missile defenses in any way.

In an age of growing ballistic missile proliferation, it is essential that the U.S. protect itself, its allies, and its forward-deployed troops. The most recent test demonstrates U.S. capability to do so.