By W.J. Hennigan
LOS ANGELES (LA Times) — Multiple missiles screaming above the Pacific Ocean were successfully intercepted by the military’s ballistic defense system in a test that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency is calling its biggest and most complex exercise to date.
The highly orchestrated event, which involved all three military branches, took place Wednesday over a wide region in the western Pacific at a cost of $188 million, the agency said.
Missiles were launched from the ground, air, and sea in an exercise that took about 30 minutes to complete.
“It was conducted to demonstrate the ability of the Ballistic Missile Defense System to defend against a raid of five near-simultaneous threats in an operationally relevant scenario,” said Pamela S. Rogers, an agency spokeswoman. “It was the first time in a live-fire test that multiple weapon systems engaged a raid of multiple targets near-simultaneously.”
During the test, Army personnel at a facility on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands used a system made by Lockheed Martin Corp. to track a medium-range target missile that was launched from a C-17 cargo jet. After stalking the target through radar, Army personnel then successfully sent a missile to blow it apart.
At the same time, other soldiers using the Patriot system made by Raytheon Co. detected, tracked and successfully intercepted a short-range ballistic missile. That target was launched from a mobile launch platform floating in the ocean in an area northeast of Kwajalein Atoll.
The destroyer Fitzgerald didn’t have the same success. The ship’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, built by Lockheed, was able to track and engage a low-flying target cruise missile zipping above the ocean. But the agency said that “there is no indication that it hit its target.”
Ballistic Missile Defense System programs have completed 56 successful hit-to-kill intercepts in 71 flight test attempts since 2001, the agency said.