USS O'Kane (DDG 77) launches an SM-3 Blk 1A for FTM-15 (source:

Another test of the SM-3 Blk 1A was successfully completed last night with the intercept of an IRBM-class target:

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), U.S. Navy sailors aboard the Aegis destroyer USS O’KANE (DDG 77), and Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command operating from the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System, resulting in the intercept of a separating ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean. This successful test demonstrated the capability of the first phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) announced by the President in September, 2009.

At 2:52 a.m. EDT (6:52 p.m. April 15 Marshall Island Time), an intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Reagan Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, approximately 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. The target flew in a northeasterly direction towards a broad ocean area in the Pacific Ocean. Following target launch, a forward-based AN/TPY-2 X-band transportable radar, located on Wake Island, detected and tracked the threat missile. The radar sent trajectory information to the Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) system, which processed and transmitted remote target data to the USS O’KANE. The destroyer, located to the west of Hawaii, used the data to develop a fire control solution and launch the SM-3 Block IA missile approximately 11 minutes after the target was launched.

As the IRBM target continued along its trajectory, the firing ship’s AN/SPY-1 radar detected and acquired the ballistic missile target. The firing ship’s Aegis BMD weapon system uplinked target track information to the SM-3 Block IA missile. The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space as designated by the fire control solution and released its kinetic warhead. The kinetic warhead acquired the target, diverted into its path, and, using only force of a direct impact, destroyed the threat in a “hit-to-kill” intercept.

During the test the C2BMC system, operated by Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, received data from all assets and provided situational awareness of the engagement to U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command.

The two demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites (STSS), launched by MDA in 2009, successfully acquired the target missile, providing stereo “birth to death” tracking of the target.

Today’s event, designated Flight Test Standard Missile-15 (FTM-15), was the most challenging test to date, as it was the first Aegis BMD version 3.6.1 intercept against an intermediate-range target (range 1,864 to 3,418 miles) and the first Aegis BMD 3.6.1 engagement relying on remote tracking data. The ability to use remote radar data to engage a threat ballistic missile greatly increases the battle space and defended area of the SM-3 missile.

Initial indications are that all components performed as designed. Program officials will spend the next several months conducting an extensive assessment and evaluation of system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

FTM-15 is the 21st successful intercept, in 25 attempts, for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002. Across all BMDS elements, this is the 45th successful hit-to-kill intercept in 58 flight tests since 2001.

Aegis BMD is the sea-based midcourse component of the MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System and is designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program.

This test in essence replicates what Phase I of the European Phased Adaptive Approach will be capable of in final form — a sea-based SM-3 Blk 1A intercept of MRBM/IRBM class missiles with cueing from a forward-based sensor (here the TPY-2). The lead element of Phase I, the sea-based element, is already deployed with the scheduled deployment of the USS Monterey (CG 61) earlier this year on BMD patrol. Worth emphasizing is that while deployed on BMD patrol, Monterey is nonetheless still capable of multiple missions, of which BMD is one, demonstrating the flexibility of these mobile, sea-based units.

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) (via

Posted by SteelJaw in Navy
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  • If all that is said in that release is accurate, then BMD is finally delivering on its three-decade hype. The Navy’s BMD display at West 2011 was impressive and detailed, but this full-up successful test of the system ranks with the 1962 Frigate Bird test of Operation Dominic for putting the gun on the table.

    And again, out of the remote Pacific, Wake Island returns to notice. A mighty useful piece of real estate, and i don’t think we’re going to leave it in the care of the Fish & Wildlife Service forever.

  • alfred_the_great

    What does the “European” part of the test title refer to?



  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Happy news.

  • alfred_the_great

    Thank you.


  • Derrick

    Most impressive. Very hard to hit a bullet with a bullet.

    Is this solution feasible with situations where a non-state actor, like Al Qaeda, broke into some weakly guarded missile site and managed to fire a single missile at a target?

    Is this solution feasible with situations where a state actor launches a salvo of missiles against a target? What if the missiles contained multiple warheads each?

    What about electromagnetic rail guns and directed energy weapons (ie chemical lasers, particle beams)?

    Also, why did the Destroyer take 11 minutes before calculating a fire solution?

    Finally, in those 11 minutes, is it possible for a nearby CVN air wing to launch a few fighter jets to attempt to intercept the missile during its boost phase?

  • Andy (JADAA)

    I believe that the Fish & Wildlife people only have a portion of the atoll, out at the SW end, beyond the runway. Wake is one of the best-kept “secrets” out there: If more people knew how neat a place it is, everyone would make up an excuse to stop over there! Of course if I Trump-bucks, I’d sure make a bid on it. (the ultimate Pacific get-away resort!) Although these days, given its very important nexus in working a myriad of programs with Kwajalein, I imagine DOD wouldn’t be amused by a bid.

  • alfred_the_great

    Derek – I read that statement as “11 minutes to calculate the FCS *and* launch the missile”; I presume to ensure that it was within the kill envelope?

    I would suggest that the scenarios you envision are for further testing….

  • Re. the 11 minutes — it was 11 minutes from detection of launch of the target to launch of the SM-3, representative of the distances involved – a firing solution was fairly quickly calculated, an optimal intercept point calculated and then countdown to launch the SM-3 followed. Follow-on versions to the Blk 1A used here (e.g., the larger Blk IIA and IIB) will have more energy available, and hence an ability to launch earlier for longer range intercepts. This provides a couple of advantages, not least of which will be more time to conduct kill and follow-on raid assessment.

    As for killing the missile on boost phase, not possible for the near future. ALTB is just that – a test bed with one successful shot against an SRBM from (relatively speaking) close range. There are other options being examined and weighed, but we can’t talk about them in this fora. The scenario with a CSG is more properly slotted under “Attack Options” where you kill the missile before launch – highly problematic in a non-permissive environment, especially against mobile missile launchers that are stored in secure UGFs and can deploy to concealed locations.

    Finally, as for non-state actors and missiles — already there; open press reporting from last year indicates Lebanese Hezbollah has been supplied with missiles and large caliber rockets (LCR) which are deployed in concealed locations in southern Lebanon. For that reason, among others, Israel has deployed not only the Arrow interceptor system, but also the Iron Dome endo-atmospheric system (developed jointly with the US) which recently took out a LCR launched from Gaza.

    w/r, SJS

  • Derrick

    I guess I’m still dreaming about what BMD could be, as opposed to what actually is possible with today’s technology. I was hoping for boost phase intercept, as that’s when the missile is travelling the slowest and less likely to be able to evade or deploy countermeasures.

    I guess this is an ideal test? Where the enemy missile flies the perfect parabolic path to make it easier to intercept? I remember somebody here typing about the Chinese Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile and how during midcourse phase it will probably do a few humps to not follow the perfect parabolic course…so I’m curious how this system will do against that. It seems to be enough to deal with non-state actors…but not sure about peer competitors with fatter wallets.

    11 minutes from launch of target to launching interceptor…so not all of the 11 minutes was due to calculating the intercept course. That’s good to know. 11 minutes to me seems long for computer number crunching…how much RAM and CPU power are in that BMD system?

  • Retired Now

    Obsolete ! shooting AEGIS missiles with a booster attached to the bottom part, can cause damage to the internal VLS cell. Expensive to rebuild the inside of a VLS.

    Solution: DDG-1000. She gets Periferal VLS cells, all down the sides of each ship. And with nice (approx) 2 inch thick steel on both the external and the internal sides of each PVLS cell.

    And much, much deeper cells, too. So that in the future, the Navy could build more powerful AEGIS SAM’s with even larger boosters, but only shoot them from DDG-1000 ships.

    Small problem: NAVSEA “forgot” to install the long range radar SPY-4 piece of Dual Band Radar (DBR). So, forget using DDG-1000 to shoot at any theater ballistic missiles, or satellites, etc. Imagine spending over $14 billion of RDT&E money developing DDG-1000 and the first ship is useless for any testing of TBMD for the next 30 years. SPY-4 doesn’t retrofit by the way.

    Oh well, maybe if DDG-1001 isn’t cancelled, then perhaps Lockheed Martin just might deliver the long overdue, over budget SPY-4 radar ? But, don’t hold your breath.

  • Byron

    DDG-1000 vs DDG-51: The best is the enemy of the good enough. Besides, one ship actually looks like a modern warship, and the other looks like a wannabe submarine.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    The target’s launch vehicle (designated LV-2) is a refurbished Trident C4 SLBM. Since this missile was a former strategic weapon, the Meck Is. site is one of the few places from which the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty permits us to launch this vehicle; a fitting end for a missile that served as a strategic deterrent.

    MDA’s video of FTM-15 is up on Youtube:

    for those who have six minutes to spare.
    – Kyon