BARKING SANDS — The U.S. Missile Defense Agency successfully tested the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System’s tracking capabilities Tuesday night on Kauai in an exercise that MDA representatives said went “very well.”
A target missile was fired from the ground at Pacific Missile Range Facility at 9 p.m. Tuesday, said Chris Johnson, director of public affairs for the MDA.
The medium-range ballistic missile target was in the air for about 15 minutes before landing in the ocean and it was detected and tracked from the USS John Paul Jones, positioned west of Hawaii. The entire exercise took about 20 minutes.
U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Navy sailors joined the members of the MDA on the USS John Paul Jones.
The MDA and the U.S. Navy manage the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Program cooperatively.
According to a press release, the ship’s onboard AN/SPY-1 radar used the Aegis Baseline 9.C1 Weapon System to detect the target, but the test itself was a non-intercept test.
“There wasn’t a missile fired from the ship but there was a target missile fired from PMRF last night,” Johnson said. “In a traditional test, a missile is fired from somewhere and another one from somewhere else, but this was a test for tracking (the target).”
Tuesday’s test is one in a series of trials for the Aegis Baseline 9.C1 Weapon System and as of Wednesday, Johnson said he didn’t know if there are plans for similar tests of the system on Kauai within the next year.
But, there was a similar test of the Aegis Baseline Weapon System in October 2014, where a medium-range ballistic missile target was launched from PMRF and tracked by the same ship involved in Tuesday’s test.
Johnson said the difference between the 2014 test and Tuesday’s test is the type of missile that was tested.
“In 2014 we were demonstrating the ship being able to track an exoatmospheric missile, and this test was tracking an endoatmospheric missile,” Johnson said.
Exoatmospheric missiles are capable of completing missions outside Earth’s atmosphere; endoatmospheric missiles stay in the atmosphere, and are usually shorter range.
Johnson explained the two types of ballistic missiles have different flight paths and it’s important for the MDA to test the Aegis Baseline Weapon System’s tracking capabilities on both.
The 2014 test delivered promising results and Tuesday’s test didn’t disappoint, either, Johnson said.
“We’re still evaluating the data, but the ship was able to track the missile throughout its flight,” he said. “We’ll take those results and evaluate over the next few weeks.”
Representatives of PMRF couldn’t be reached for comment before deadline on Wednesday.