In December 2003, Japan decided to upgrade their 4 existing Kongo Class AEGIS Destroyers and their SPY-1D radars to full AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense capability. Installations are scheduled for 2007 through 2010, and each installation will be followed by a flight test to demonstrate proper operation. They will fire the naval SM-3 Standard missile, which is under co-development as part of cooperation with the USA on missile defense. These ships will form the outer layer of Japan’s anti ballistic missile shield, with the land-based Patriot PAC-3 forming the point defense component.
It would appear that the first-of-class ship JS Kongo [DDG-173] is also the first Japanese ship to have the BMD upgrade installed. Cue the flight test, as JS Kongo becomes the first Japanese ship to destroy a ballistic missile. On Dec 17/07 at 12:05 pm Hawaii time, a medium-range ballistic missile target was fired from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. JS Kongo responded by tracking it and launching an SM-3 Block 1A missile at 12:08 pm. At 12:11pm, it destroyed the missile about 100 miles above the ocean, achieving a first for Japan and the 12th successful intercept overall for the SM-3 ABM program. The American cruiser and ABM test veteran Lake Erie [CG 70] monitored the test, tracking the incoming missile with its own AEGIS BMD and exchanging information with a land-based THAAD ABM unit on Kauai.
The test reportedly cost about $50 million, and comes just days after a Japanese navy lieutenant commander was arrested for leaking classified information about Japan’s ballistic missile defense system. US MDA release [PDF] | US MDA video footage [Windows Media] | Lockheed Martin release | Raytheon release | Boeing | Honolulu Advertiser | Associated Press via MSNBC | Voice of America | China’s Xinhua | Times of India
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