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Seagoing Missile Defence tests this week

US cruiser to stand off attack from Hawaii

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The US Missile Defence Agency (MDA) claims further success with test interceptions by its mobile land-based protective system, and plans a more complex trial of its seagoing component.

At the end of last month, the Theatre High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system successfully shot down (pdf) a non-separating target described by the MDA as "a 'SCUD'-type ballistic missile". THAAD is a lorry-mounted rocket which could defend relatively small areas against probably shorter-ranging ballistic warheads plunging out of the sky. It would be most useful protecting deployed US forces, or perhaps key areas of allied nations.

THAAD-type SCUD shield capability was believed to be in the US armoury as long ago as 1991, in the form of the Patriot air-defence missile of that day. However this turned out not to be the case. It seems that a protection against SCUDs is now, finally, in existence.

In a related development, Aviation Week reports that a further test will take place this week employing sea-based components of the MDA panoply.

The test will involve a single Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruiser, equipped with SM-3 Block 1A missile-busting interceptors. USS Lake Erie will be required to simultaneously detect and shoot down two targets representing fairly basic short-range enemy ballistic missiles, of the type already in service with various nations of interest. The targets will be fired from the missile range at Kauai in the Pacific.

Standard interceptors in their present form will probably never be able to knock down serious intercontinental missiles of the type employed by major world powers, but Aegis-type ships could be a useful defence against the sort of weapons employed by North Korea - or those which make up the majority of the Chinese arsenal. North Korea does have one intercontinental-type design, but when it was tested it blew up less than a minute off the pad.

Unsuprisingly, Japan is buying Aegis ships, and JS Kongo of the Japanese Maritime Self-defence Force will also participate in this week's test. However her missile firing will be simulated only.®

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