The Missile Defense Agency is scheduled to conduct its latest flight test of the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense program this morning in cooperation with the U.S. Navy and Pacific Missile Range Facility in Mana.
The test will involve the firing of a short-range ballistic missile target from the Navy ship Tripoli, which will be within a few hundred miles of Kaua‘i to the west-northwest, MDA spokesperson Chris Taylor said.
The nearby Navy ship Lake Erie, recently utilized in the highly publicized February shooting down of a malfunctioning U.S. spy satellite, will try to detect and track the target missile with specially designed radar.
Its crew will then fire two modified Standard Missile-2 Block IV missiles with the goal of achieving either a direct body-to-body hit or a near-direct hit with the target, destroying it.
“If it does not, we have the ability to self-destruct the target, and we would do that,” said Taylor.
If the test goes smoothly, however, the Navy could certify the sea-based, short-range, terminal-phase capability of the Aegis program and have it “on patrol” as soon as next year.
Taylor explained that, “By the end of this year, there will be 18 ships identically equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense capability.”
Sixteen of those 18 ships are based in the Pacific Ocean because the system is designed to protect America from “rogue nation threats like Iran and North Korea,” he said.
“The greatest threat at the time we began development was in the Western Pacific.”
While the test will occur miles from Kaua‘i and won’t be visible from the island, the PMRF will be playing host to the proceedings and is serving an important function, according to spokesperson Tom Clements.
“We’ll provide them (the MDA) with what amounts to instant replay,” Clements said yesterday. The data provided to the MDA will include “radar, telemetry, optics such as telescopes and video” captured by a PMRF barge to be placed near the action.
“Our range out here is one of the nation’s premiere test facilities,” Clements added.
Taylor estimates that the exercise will cost roughly $40 million, with half being allocated to execution, engineering and analysis, and half being used on the target missile and the two SM-2’s. Between $3 and $4 million of that total will flow through the local economy, officials said.
• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or email@example.com