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For Immediate Release

June 27, 2012

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Gina Ellrich
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APL Plays Key Role in Successful Test of Critical Missile Defense System

Aegis BMD System Intercepts Separating Ballistic Missile Target in Complex Debris Environment

APL Plays Key Role in Successful Test of Critical Missile Defense System

A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB interceptor is launched from the USS Lake Erie (CG 70) during a Missile Defense Agency test in the mid-Pacific. The SM-3 Block IB successfully intercepted a separating ballistic missile target that had been launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii.

Credit: NAVAIR

On June 26, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) contributed to a major test critical to the United States’ plan to protect against growing regional ballistic missile threats.

During Flight Test Maritime-18 (FTM-18), engineers from The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory assisted the Missile Defense Agency in completing the second successful intercept test for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) 4.0.1/Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB system (an upgrade to the currently fielded system designed to destroy more sophisticated ballistic missile threats).

The operationally realistic test demonstrated the Aegis BMD 4.0.1 system’s capability to intercept a separating ballistic missile target and also confirmed that the SM-3 Block IB Kinetic Warhead’s infrared seeker could support lethal intercept in a complex debris environment. “The test verified that the Aegis BMD weapon system and the missile can operate effectively as a system-of-systems and the missile’s sophisticated seeker proved itself by identifying the target in the complex end-game scene just prior to intercept,” says Vishal Giare, APL’s assistant program area manager for Aegis BMD.

During the test, a target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai. “In advance of the test, APL engineers performed modeling and simulation of the characteristics of this target and its debris scene to establish the mission scenario. They also worked with the Flight Test Mission Director to determine good target criteria for safe and successful execution of the mission,” says Giare.

An Aegis cruiser stationed off Kauai used its advanced, automatic detect and track, multifunctional phased-array radar, the AN/SPY-1, to detect the ballistic missile target and identify the lethal object for use in targeting the SM-3 Block IB missile. “The Aegis BMD 4.0.1 system successfully tracked and handed over the separating ballistic missile target to its SM-3 Block IB missile to support intercept in the exo-atmosphere,” Giare says.

This test is the second of a series of three planned flight tests this year for the Aegis BMD 4.0.1/SM-3 Block IB system to demonstrate its capability to intercept a range of ballistic missile targets. The previous test, FTM-16 Event 2A, was completed on May 9 with the successful intercept of a short-range ballistic missile. Ultimately, this system is planned as a central component of the Phased Adaptive Approach envisioned by the United States for ballistic missile defense of Europe.

As the technical direction agent for Aegis BMD, APL is integral in the full systems engineering life cycle, including testing and transition of the BMD capability to the fleet. APL played a critical role in planning and designing the mission scenario, evaluating the test target, and predicting the Aegis BMD system performance for the test.

The Missile Defense Agency and the Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program. Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., is the prime contractor for the development of the SM-3. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, Moorestown, N.J., is the prime contractor for the Aegis BMD Combat System installed in Aegis cruisers and destroyers.

For images and/or information about FTM-18, visit

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit

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