A Miss

November 20, 2008

Dear Members and Friends,

Last night, the Japanese ship JS Chokai (DDG-176) off the coast of Kauai Hawaii detected, tracked and launched a Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) which missed a separating ballistic missile target launched from the Pacific Range Missile Facility (PRMF) in Barking Sands, Kauai over the Pacific Ocean. This test was to demonstrate Japanese deployed ballistic missile defense capability to protect its national security and the population of Japan from ballistic missile threats. The test represented a realistic live military exercise for Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) as the JS Chokai (DDG-176) and its crew independently using the ship’s Aegis SPY-1 radar to put together a firing solution for the SM3-Block 1A which was launched at 9:24PM and missed the target ballistic missile two minutes later. 
The cause of the missed intercept could likely be a possible jammed valve in one of the small rockets on the interceptor (Kill Vehicle) in the last few seconds as it didn’t make the adjustments quick enough for an intended intercept. In a real time situation, things happen that can’t be controlled nor thought out prior and the best solution in a real situation is to have the ability to launch another interceptor after a miss from the Aegis ship or others in the vicinity.  The Sea Based Aegis SM-3 missile defense system is designed to do this as it can take up to 4 or more shots at one ballistic missile target before it enters the atmosphere  as the SM-3 can intercept from high space to low space thus increasing the redundancy and the probability of success. The Aegis ballistic missile system is 12 out of 16 in successful intercept tests since December of 2002, including the live toxic satellite shoot down in February of 2008 by the Aegis SM-3 sea based system.

This marks the second Japanese Aegis ship that will acquire and deploy its ballistic missile defense system as last year the JS Kongo (DDG-173) was made capable in Hawaii as the JS Chokai (DDG-176) will soon have its full complement of SM-3s. In the next two years two more Japanese Aegis ships will deploy with their own sea based ballistic missile defenses.  Along with these two Japanese ships and their live inventory of SM3-Block 1A interceptors, the United States has deployed in rotation several of its 18 Aegis missile defense capable ships in the Pacific Fleet to bolster a collective defense which continues to provide stability as well as protection to the North West Asia region. Coupled with the U.S. forward based x-band radar deployed in Japan and the Patriot-3 units deployed in the region this provides a layered defense that can provide multiple shots thus increasing the overall effectiveness of missile defense in this region if one of these missiles failed as the case was yesterday.

The United States mirrored the test independently by continuing to validate its sensors and systems such as the THAAD radar and the USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60) as they went through the detection, tracking, discrimination and putting together firing solutions on a live target ballistic missile.

In the nearby future Japan and the United States will be able to coordinate and fully integrate their ballistic missile systems in the region together; both sensors and interceptors thus being far more efficient and effective than they would be by being separate. Eventually, countries such as Australia and South Korea with their future ballistic missile defense systems will become interoperable with the Japanese and the United States making the region even more stable then it is today.

*Please note our reference to the involvement with the THAAD radar on this test was incorrect as this radar was relocated in October of this year to support GMD flight testing in a forward based mode from Juneau, Alaska.

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