Aegis missile test set for today

MANA — For the second time in four months, a U.S. Navy warship will attempt to stop two missiles — one launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility and another from the air — in a scheduled test of its defense system this afternoon.

If successful, the multi-million dollar test will mark the first time that such a vessel has simultaneously intercepted more than one attack using the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system.

The first attempt last December at the Kaua‘i facility failed when the “USS Lake Erie” was unable to launch the interceptors due to a system error, according to Missile Defense Agency spokesman Chris Taylor.

As one of many layers of defense against attacks, Aegis specializes in sea-based, short- and mid-range missile interception.

“It’s not only surveillance and (long-range) tracking but interception,” Taylor said of Aegis.

Other land-based systems protect against a range of threats, including inter-continental missiles.

Of the nine Aegis tests completed — all launched from Kaua‘i — seven have been successful in deflecting single dummy-missile threats.

Taylor noted that three more are planned for this year, though another test with two interceptors has not been scheduled.

The agency has until Friday to complete the current launch.

The last dual target test, unlike the upcoming exercise, involved two additional ships, which tracked the missiles and shared data.

Only the “Lake Erie” will participate in tomorrow’s launch, Taylor said.

Following the December launch, the air target was recovered, though the other remains in the ocean.

Neither contained armed warheads, as the systems rely on the kinetic energy of impact to destroy the targets.

According to Taylor, the goal is to have 18 Navy ships — 15 destroyers and 3 cruisers — equipped with the Aegis system by 2009.

The Aegis program is managed by the Navy and the Missile Defense Agency.

Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors is the primary contractor for the systems.

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