US intercepts ICBM target with destroyer-launched SM-3 Block IIA missile

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, successfully 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, November 16.

Photo: Northrop Grumman

The ICBM-representative target was launched from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, toward the broad ocean area northeast of Hawaii. 

In this developmental test, 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 a SM-3 Block IIA guided missile which destroyed the target.

“This was an incredible accomplishment and critical milestone for the Aegis BMD SM-3 Block IIA program,” Vice Admiral Jon Hill, MDA Director, commented.

“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 an architecture for layered defense of the homeland.”

Based on preliminary data, the test met its primary objective — demonstrate the ability for the SM-3 Block IIA missile to intercept an ICBM target.

This event, designated Flight Test Aegis Weapon System-44 (FTM-44), was the sixth flight test of an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel using the SM-3 Block IIA guided missile. FTM-44, originally scheduled for May 2020, was delayed due to restrictions in personnel and equipment movement intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

FTM-44 satisfies a Congressional mandate to demonstrate that the MDA can use the Navy’s Aegis Combat System equipped with the Standard Missile 3 Block IIA (SM-3 IIA) to intercept intercontinental threats.

The ICBM target was built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC). The company is also the prime contractor on the Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) target, which is air-launched from a C-17 aircraft to provide the MDA with flexibility in mission engagement scenarios. 

Photo: Northrop Grumman

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