The US has successfully downed a dummy ballistic missile in a test of the sea-based element of its Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) programme. The cruiser Lake Erie used a Standard Missile (SM)-3 to intercept the mock warhead fired from the US Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai.
The SM-3 was guided by Lockheed Martin's Aegis Combat System, which can, according to the company, "detect, track, characterize and engage short- and medium-range ballistic missiles".
Aegis forms a vital part of the BMD, which will cost the US $10bn per year over the next five years. The Defense Department intends to deploy 30 SM-3 missiles on Aegis-equipped vessels by 2007, initially to counter the possible missile threat from North Korea, Reuters reports. The destroyer Curtis Wilbur last year became the first component of this anti-missile shield when it began to patrol the Sea of Japan.
Aegis is not, however, simply an anti-missile system. Lockheed Martin describes it as "the world's premier naval defense system" and notes that it "can simultaneously attack land targets, submarines, and surface ships while automatically implementing defenses to protect the fleet against aircraft and missiles.".
Aegis is currently operational on 68 US Navy vessels worldwide. Future customers include Australia, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Spain. You can find Lockheed Martin's full blurb on the Aegis Weapon System here.
Other Lockheed Martin projects include the F/A-22 Raptor, the troublesome Patriot missile and the UK's £623m air traffic control computer system, described by El Reg as "perhaps the ultimate hopeless government IT project". ®