The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Pentagon have conducted a series of ballistic missile defense (BMD) tests in recent weeks that confirm the growing capabilities of the Navy’s premier at-sea interceptor.* Even better, the tested system will soon deploy in Europe to bolster NATO’s front-line defenses against Iranian missile threats. The remaining challenges are to induce European allies to contribute more resources to NATO’s collective missile defense efforts and for the United States to make better use of its proven sea-based defenses by incorporating them into a homeland defense role.
On Sept. 9, the MDA detected, tracked and intercepted two medium-range ballistic-missiles that were flying simultaneously over the Pacific Ocean. Satellites and an AN/TPY-2 radar detected the two launches and then helped a warship with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System track one of the missile’s flight path using its on-board AN/SPY-1 radar. The Aegis system then successfully launched an SM-3 Block IA interceptor missile, whose warhead then hit the target. Meanwhile, an AN/TPY-2 radar supporting a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system designed to intercept short- and medium-range missiles also monitored the targets, allowing the THAAD system to launch an interceptor to destroy the second missile.
According to the Pentagon, the test demonstrated the ability of THAAD and AN/TPY-2 to work effectively with the longer-range Aegis technology to provide a layered missile defense framework against multiple missile threats. In its terminal-phase mode, the AN/TPY-2 acts as a fire-control radar for the THAAD system, while in forward-based mode it can track ballistic missiles as early as their ascent phase and contribute fire-control data to the Aegis ships.