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USS McCampbell successfully launches SM-3 Blk IIA missile near Hawaii.

| Naval News Navy 2024

According to information published by the US DoD on February 8, 2024, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the U.S. Navy recently conducted a test, referred to as Flight Test Other-23 (FTX-23) or Stellar Sisyphus, off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 The USS McCampbell launching an SM-3 Blk IIA missile near Hawaii, captured against the ocean backdrop during FTX-23. (Picture source: MDA)

This test was divided into two segments to evaluate the Aegis Weapon System's capabilities in sensor tracking and missile interception against a Medium Range Ballistic Missile target that included countermeasures.

In the first segment, the Aegis Weapon System successfully tracked and discriminated a complex scenario involving the missile target. The subsequent segment involved the launch of a Standard Missile – 3 Block IIA (SM-3 Blk IIA), which achieved interception of the missile target. This test aimed to validate the integrated missile defense system's ability to handle advanced threats through improved sensing, tracking, and interception capabilities.

The USS McCampbell (DDG 85) and USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125), two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, were involved in the test, alongside the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex and the Advanced Radar Development Evaluation Laboratory. These assets contributed to data collection on the target, enhancing future modeling and simulation for missile tracking and discrimination improvements.

About the SM-3 Blk IIA

The Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA is an integral component of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, aimed at intercepting and destroying medium- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. This missile is the result of a cooperative development effort between the United States and Japan, designed to enhance missile defense capabilities.

Design and Operational Features

The SM-3 Block IIA is built around a three-stage rocket motor, each stage designed to propel the missile towards its target with increasing accuracy. It employs a kinetic warhead, or Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), equipped with an infrared seeker to detect, track, and collide with an incoming missile, neutralizing it through kinetic energy.

This direct collision approach, known as "hit-to-kill," aims to destroy the target without using an explosive warhead, reducing the risk of triggering any dangerous payloads the target may carry.

Range and Engagement Capabilities

The missile's operational range surpasses that of its predecessors, enabling engagements at higher altitudes and further distances. This extended range is intended to provide a larger defensive perimeter, allowing for earlier interception of threats.

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