U.S. intercept system successfully downs cruise missile in test

Monday, October 11, 2004

A U.S. system that integrates existing missile and radar assets has succeeded in intercepting a simulated cruise missile similar to ones obtained by Iran from China.

The Complementary Low Altitude Weapon System, or CLAWS, was said to have successfully intercepted a BQM-74 surrogate cruise missile target through the integration of assets common to a range of U.S. allies in the Middle East. The cruise missile target, flying at low altitude, was intercepted during a test this week at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

In 2003, the U.S. PAC-2 and PAC-3 missile defense systems failed to intercept Iraqi cruise missiles fired toward Kuwait during the war against Saddam Hussein, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said U.S. troops in Iraq could be vulnerable to cruise missiles fired by neighboring Iran, which has procured such weapons from China.

Officials said all mission objectives were met in the interception of the BMQ-74 by a U.S.-origin air-to-air missile. The missile defense system has been integrated by Raytheon.

"This test harnessed the elements of the CLAWS Family of Systems and demonstrated a capable, working architecture that will give us an advantage on the battlefield," Maj. Steve Grass, project lead of the U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command, said. "We are looking forward to taking the next step."

Officials identified the interceptor used in the White Sands test as the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, AMRAAM. They said other assets in the system included the TPS-59 radar and AN/TYQ-23 Tactical Air Operations Module.

Several Middle East air forces have procured the AIM-120, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt and Jordan have also requested the advanced air-to-air missile, with Cairo seeking to deploy the AMRAAM on a ground vehicle for anti-aircraft missions.

The successful White Sands test, announced on Oct. 6, demonstrated what officials described as the system's kill-chain. They said the cruise target was acquired and tracked by the Thales-Raytheon MPQ-64 Sentinel Radar, with command and control provided by the Marines updated Air Defense Communications Platform.

So far, CLAWS has undergone two tests. Officials said a third and final test would be conducted over the next few months.

Officials described CLAWS as an all-weather, mobile, air defense system for Marine expeditionary forces. The system, meant to be smaller and cheaper than the PAC-3, has been mounted on the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle platform and uses the AIM-120 as an interceptor. They said CLAWS was deemed a Marine variant of the U.S. Army/Marine Ground Launched AMRAAM common launcher program.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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