U.S. sets test tonight of Aegis missile defense

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

The United States plans another test of its ship-based missile defense system.

The Defense Department has scheduled a test of its SM-3 interceptor on an Aegis-class cruiser for Wednesday evening. Officials said this will be the fourth test of the sea-based missile defense system.

The Aegis test will be on the USS Lake Eerie, equipped with the Aegis defense system. The Aegis will fire an SM-3 missile to intercept a short-range Aeries target missile in a test over the Pacific Ocean.

"The primary objective of this test is to evaluate the SM-3 kinetic warhead's guidance, navigation and control operation in space using an upgraded solid divert and attitude control system," a Pentagon statement said.

The U.S. Navy has launched a project to modify three Aegis cruisers to carry the missile defense system and the SM-3 inteceptor. Officials said that so far, all of the tests of the Aegis have been successful. The last test was in December 2002.

The latest test is the second of a series of six launches meant to demonstrate the Aegis technology under what officials termed operationally-realistic ballistic missile engagement scenarios. The Aegis has been examined by a range of U.S. allies as a system that could be more flexible than the ground-based PAC-3 missile defense system.

Officials said the lessons learned from previous tests have been incorporated into a new design for a control system. They said the performance improvements focus on the addition of a high-energy pulse that increases maneuvering capability.

Raytheon Missile Systems, based in Tucson, Ariz., is the prime contractor for the development of the SM-3 missile. Alliant Tech Systems has developed the improved maneuvering system for the interceptor.

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