HONOLULU — The U.S. military on the Hawaiian island of Kauai has conducted the first flight test of a new missile defense system designed to protect NATO forces in Europe from ballistic missile attack, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
The Missile Defense Agency and the Navy used the Aegis Weapon System to track a simulated target in Tuesday evening’s test. They successfully intercepted the simulated target using a Standard Missile-3 Block IB missile made by Raytheon Co.
Another test next year will have a missile intercept an actual target.
The European Phased Adaptive Approach plan for missile defense calls for the first Aegis Ashore site to be operational in Romania next year, Raytheon said. The second Aegis Ashore site is on track for Poland in 2018.
The Aegis Ashore system uses the same SM-3 missiles deployed on U.S. and Japanese navy ships today. The system holds 24 SM-3 missiles at one time but has the capacity for additional launchers and missiles.
The missiles destroy incoming ballistic missile threats in space using sheer impact. Raytheon said the force is equivalent to a 10-ton truck traveling 600 mph.
Tuesday’s test was the first of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system using a land-based missile launcher. Interceptor missiles were launched from ships in previous tests.
SM-3 missiles have successfully destroyed actual targets in 26 out of 30 attempts.
Tuesday’s test provided parts of Hawaii with a dramatic light show. Hawaii News Now reported that many people called in to ask about the squiggly lines they saw in the sky for a few minutes shortly after sunset.
Stefan Alford, a spokesman for the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, said the lines were condensed water vapor trailing the missile twisted by upper level winds.