US Navy Achieves New Milestone; Shoots Down Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Mid-Air

The US Missile Defense Agency has claimed to have shot down an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in space for the first time using ​an ​interceptor ​​missile fired from a warship in a successful test.

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The ICBM target missile launched from a test range in the Marshall Islands was shot down in space by a US ​destroyer at sea in the Pacific Ocean. 

This is the first time an ICBM test has been conducted from a sea-based vessel, the ICBM intercept tests were only conducted using ground-based launchers in Alaska and California​ by the country​.

​”The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA), and US Navy sailors aboard the USS John Finn (DDG-113), an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System-equipped destroyer, intercepted and destroyed a threat-representative Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) target with a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile during a flight test demonstration in the broad ocean area northeast of Hawaii, Nov. 16,” the ​statement released by the MDA​​ said​ on Tuesday​. 

The US Navy shot down the ICBM over the Pacific Ocean with an SM-3 Block IIA missile, in a feat that demonstrated a potential scheme to defend Hawaii, the Missile Defense Agency announced. The destroyer subsequently fired and eliminated the target with the SM-3IIA, according to the press release.

During the test, the MDA claimed the destroyer used engage-on-remote capabilities through the Command and Control Battle Management Communications (C2BMC) network “as part of a defense of Hawaii scenario.” 

After receiving tracking data from the C2BMC system, the destroyer launched an SM-3 Block IIA guided missile which destroyed the target, it said. 

“This was an incredible accomplishment and critical milestone for the Aegis BMD SM-3 Block IIA program,” said MDA Director, Vice Admiral 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 architecture for the layered defense of the homeland. My congratulations to the entire test team, including our military and industry partners, who helped us to achieve this milestone.”

The MDA claimed complete success of the test, saying the primary objective to demonstrate the ability for an SM-3 Block IIA missile to intercept an ICBM target had been achieved.

It was the sixth flight test of an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel using the SM-3 Block IIA guided missile. The test, originally scheduled for May 2020, was delayed due to Covid-19 restrictions in place across the country.

According to the statement from the government, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Weapons System is the naval component of the US Missile Defense System. The MDA and the US Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD system. 

Aegis BMD ships (and Aegis Ashore) receive track data via the C2BMC system, build the fire control solutions, then launch and guide the SM-3 family of missiles to destroy incoming threats. MDA’s mission is to develop and deploy a layered Missile Defense System to defend the US, its deployed forces, allies, and friends from missile attacks of all ranges in all phases of flight, says the press release. 

It’s also a big accomplishment in the Navy’s venerable Aegis program, Tom Karako, an expert in missile defense policy was quoted by Defence News as saying​.​​The Navy’s system developed from the late 1960s in recognition that human reaction times would be insufficient in an era of mass missile fires at ships​,​​ he added.​ 

The Aegis program, which was ​initially ​developed under the auspices of RCA, followed by General Electric, has Lockheed Martin as the prime contractor today. The system, which uses highly sensitive radars with sophisticated missiles to combat air threats, was primarily built to defend the country’s aircraft carriers. But it was expanded to include the capabilities ​to protect the country from nuclear missile attacks, from countries such as Iran or North Korea.