Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Japanese warship will try for missile shootdown off Kauai

A Japanese navy ship with a state-of-the-art, American-built, missile-defense system will attempt to shoot a target missile out of the sky this afternoon.

Dubbed JFTM-3 (for Japanese Flight Test Mission 3) Stellar Raicho, with "raicho" being the name of a mythical Japanese thunderbird, the test was originally scheduled for tomorrow in air and sea off the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands near Kekaha. The test was moved up to today due to weather concerns, said Ralph H. Scott III, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Myoko (DDG 175) will attempt to detect and track a target missile fired from PMRF sometime this afternoon or early evening, and launch a missile to destroy the target in the hit-to-kill technology, according to Scott and an MDA press release.

The JS Myoko is the fourth ship in the Japanese navy to be equipped with the Aegis missile-defense system, and this is the first "no-notice," real-time firing test of that ship's system and crew, Scott said.An earlier test was to check the ship's ability to detect, track and kill a simulated anti-air warfare target also launched from PMRF, according to the press release.

Another earlier test, JFTM-2, also at PMRF involving another Japanese destroyer, was unsuccessful, though the cause of failure has not yet been determined, according to an MDA fact sheet.A fourth test is tentatively scheduled for next year.During today's test, the U.S. Navy ships USS Paul Hamilton and USS Lake Erie, both out of Pearl Harbor, will detect and track the target as a training exercise.
Before returning to Japan, the JS Myoko will be loaded with additional SM-3 (standard missile 3) Block IA missiles, ensuring the ship's arrival in Japan ready to provide additional ballistic missile defense capability against the increasing ballistic missile threat present in that region, according to the press release.Overall, the Ballistic Missile Defense System has had success in 40 of 51 hit-to-kill intercepts since 2001, and 16 of 19 since 2007.

The expansive open-ocean range at PMRF, with sensors from the bottom of the ocean into outer space, not only provides a secure test facility, but also offers a "realistic, excellent location" for the cooperative tests with the Japanese navy, Scott said.


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