Missile launches propel island economy

When missile-defense tests take place at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands near Kekaha and Mana, some 400 to 600 people come to the island to watch the proceedings.

They stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants, shop at local stores, stay for up to two weeks, and contribute in the neighborhood of $5 million to the island’s economy, according to Tom Clements, PMRF spokesperson.

Another test took place yesterday, and even before federal Missile Defense Agency (MDA) leaders declared it a technical success, it was already an economic success for the island.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry ‘Trey” Obering, MDA director, announced the successful completion yesterday morning of an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense “hit-to-kill” intercept flight test conducted jointly with the U.S. Navy off the west coast of the island.

The test involved for the first time a “separating” target, meaning that the target war-head separated from its booster rocket.

This was the sixth successful intercept test in seven flight tests conducted since intercept tests began in 2002, Obering said.

Previous tests were against unitary (non-separating) targets like “SCUD”-type ballistic missiles.

The target missile was launched from PMRF, and the intercept missile was launched from the Pearl Harbor-based Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie, out on the PMRF range in the Pacific waters off Kekaha.

The intercept used “hit-to-kill” technology, which means that the target warhead was destroyed when the missile collided directly with the target.

Sailors aboard the Aegis destroyer USS Hopper, outfitted with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, was stationed off the coast of Kaua’i, supporting the mission by performing long-range missile surveillance and tracking functions.

Officials with MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program. Officials with Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors of Moorestown, N.J., are the Combat System Engineering Agent (CSEA) and prime contractor for the Aegis Weapon System and Vertical Launch System installed in Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers.

Leaders at Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., are the prime contractors for the SM-3 missile.

Over 5,000 miles away, physicists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, Md., were also applauding the successful mission.

They provide “critical engineering and technical direction,” they said.

“For nearly half a century, APL has played a major role in the Aegis and Standard Missile programs,” said Joel Miller, APL’s program manager for Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense.

The successful intercept “reflects our critical role in air and missile defense, helping our nation’s military forces create a deterrent against an increasing ballistic-missile threat,” Miller said.

APL scientists work with the larger Aegis BMD community, including Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors and Raytheon Missile Systems, to engineer any necessary system modifications to fulfill the Aegis BMD mission, Miller explained.

In preparation for such tests, APL scientists perform preflight predictions of the Aegis BMD system’s performance using simulators to mimic both the radar and the intercept missile, he explained.

Actual missile computer programs are tested in labs on the APL campus. Laboratory teams simulate hundreds of missile flights before each actual flight, in attempts to ensure optimum missile performance, Miller said.

Following each flight, APL scientists perform post-flight reconstructions of the mission and analyze the flight-test data to update and validate the radar performance, he said.

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