Japan successfully test-fires new interceptor missile

Courtesy of Maritime Self-Defense Force
A SM-3 Block 2A interceptor missile is fired from the Aegis destroyer Maya.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Maritime Self-Defense Force said Monday that it successfully conducted its first test-firing of a new Standard Missile-3 Block 2A interceptor missile from one of its Aegis destroyers.

The launch was part of tests on the functions of the Aegis-equipped advanced destroyers Maya and Haguro conducted over six days through Monday off Hawaii.

In the test of the SM-3 Block 2A, developed jointly by Japan and the United States, the Maya became the first MSDF vessel to fire the new interceptor missile, successfully destroying its target.

The missile launched by the Maya hit a mock medium-range ballistic missile fired by the U.S. military outside of the atmosphere.

Also, the Haguro successfully destroyed a mock short-range ballistic missile with its conventional SM-3 Block 1B missile defense system.

Another test was conducted to destroy a target using the Haguro, based on information obtained by the Maya. That test was also successful.

The tests marked the completion of all procedures to confirm the functions of the cutting-edge Haguro and Maya vessels, according to the Defense Ministry.

The two vessels will be fully deployed in accordance with the ministry’s strategy to operate eight Aegis-equipped vessels for enhanced missile defense operations.

“Japan’s missile interception capability has been further improved,” an MSDF official said.

Jointly developed by U.S. defense company Raytheon Technologies Corp. and Japanese heavy machinery maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the SM-3 Block 2A system is capable of covering higher altitudes and wider ranges than its predecessors.

Its enhanced sensor capability makes it easier to intercept missiles flying on lofted trajectories.

Prior to the tests, SM-3 Block 2A missiles had been test-fired only from U.S. vessels.

The ministry’s strategy is to be capable of responding to missile attacks on any part of the country by using four Aegis ships carrying SM-3 Block 2A interceptor missiles and another four carrying conventional interceptor missiles.

The ministry will deploy the ships in stages. It is also considering introducing new Aegis vessels after scrapping a plan to build the Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system.