Enveloped with calculation in the depths of darkness bearing on midnight in Hawaii, flames of ignition light up the black night and shake the grounds of the Pacific Missile Range Facility(PMRF) as a medium-range missile accelerates out of its launch pad to streak through the clear midnight sky of the Pacific. A missile with a substantial range using a second separating stage that represents a much more sophisticated and realistic ballistic target, reflects the modernized ballistic missiles currently in the Iranian and North Korean inventories. In those five minutes of white lightening, prior to being struck down successfully, the USS Lake Erie, a few hundred miles off the coast of Kauai, acquired, tracked with its AN/SPY-1 radar and 4.0.1 processor, created a firing solution, launched a SM-3 Block IB interceptor, updated that interceptor in its flight, placed the "Kinetic Warhead" of the interceptor close to the target, and relied on the new "Kinetic Warhead" to successfully intercept this separating medium-range target high in space. It successfully did so at 11:20PM Hawaiian time. This successful intercept enabled the full capability of the new sea and land based interceptor, the SM3-IB, and provided needed confidence for the U.S. Navy to deploy it and for the U.S. Congress to acquire it.
This test required both of the dual pluses firing back to back in the third stage for the SM-3 Block IB to extend its range while delivering the new "Kinetic Warhead" closer with its more efficient Throttleable Divert Attitude Control (TDAC) system and its two color Infrared seeker to discriminate, process, and target the correct object to collide with. This was done with amazing precision in the direct path of that identified incoming medium range separating target.
A separating stage of a solid fueled medium range ballistic missile produces chunks of debris and matter that provide a slew of objects for the Infrared seeker, of the kinetic warhead, to define in calculating the correct target to intercept. This type of discrimination becomes helpful with counter measures and decoys that may be deployed in more advanced modernized missiles. Having a dual color Infrared seeker that separates debris and multiple objects by shades of color resolves definition of acquiring the correct target with much more confidence and precision allowing a greater success against sophisticated separating realistic medium-range ballistic missile targets.
This successful SM-3 Block IB test is significant for several reasons:
- The SM-3 Block IB provides immediate protection and capability for the U.S. Navy's 5th and 7th Fleets from Iran and North Korea's medium range and more sophisticated missiles.
- The SM-3 Block IB is the critical foundation missile for the deployment of Aegis Ashore that sits in Romania and Poland as well as on Aegis BMD ships of the U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet in President Obama's promised protection of Europe from Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles.
- The SM-3 Block IB offers a replacement for the now 10 year old life cycle termination of retiring SM-3 Block IA missiles for the U.S. Navy.
- This test is the second out of three successful intercept tests that are required for the certification of the SM-3 Block IB, by U.S. Congress, so that they may make a decision to acquire these missiles. The third SM-3 Block IB test is scheduled for September of this year.
- The successful SM-3 Block IB test provides technical pathway and confidence for successful development and deployment of the SM-3 Block IIA.
This successful test was an accumulation of many teams integrating and coming together to perform at an excellent level. This integration is represented by over 315 sailors and officers of the USS Lake Erie that executed the mission, the industry/MDA team responsible for the target missile, the PMRF Navy range and its team, and the industry/MDA team responsible for the test and program management of the systems involved. They are all to be recognized and appreciated for their efforts in making our nation safer.
This new missile and its Aegis BMD platforms are absolutely vital for security and peace in the world today and tomorrow.