Newswise — Engineers from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, in cooperation with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the Japan Ministry of Defense, and U.S. Navy sailors aboard USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53), played a key role in the first live-fire intercept using the new Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA guided missile during a Feb. 3 flight test off the west coast of Hawaii.

This test marks the first time an SM-3 Block IIA was launched from an Aegis ship and the first intercept engagement using the Aegis Baseline (B/L) 9.C2 (BMD 5.1) weapon system.

APL led key “end-to-end” system-level performance analysis in collaboration with the government-industry team for the SM-3 Block IIA missile, cooperatively developed by the United States and Japan.

The missile, designed to be fired from Aegis ships and Aegis Ashore sites equipped with the new Aegis B/L 9.B2/C2 weapon systems, is capable of countering more advanced and longer-range threats than the currently deployed SM-3. APL’s high-fidelity modeling and simulation of the weapon and missile system provided key performance predictions to plan and safely execute this complex test on the flight test range.

At approximately 10:30 p.m. (Hawaii Standard Time) a medium-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii. USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53), positioned downrange, detected and tracked the target missile with its onboard AN/SPY-1 radar. Upon acquiring and tracking the target, the ship fired an SM-3 Block IIA guided missile which intercepted the target.

APL engineers and analysts worked closely with MDA to plan the test’s live-fire scenario and predict system performance before the flight.

“This intercept demonstration with the SM-3 Block IIA is the culmination of over a decade of cooperative research aimed at building an advanced SM-3 to extend the defensive capability of Aegis BMD to protect our nation’s forces and allies,” said Vishal Giare, APL Aegis BMD Program Area Manager.

The flight test, named SM-3 Block IIA Cooperative Development (SCD) Flight Test, Standard Missile (FTM)-01 (SFTM-01), was the third flight test of the SM-3 Block IIA guided missile but the first intercept test. As the Technical Direction Agent (TDA) for Aegis BMD, APL is an integral part of the full systems engineering life cycle, including testing and transition of the BMD capability to the fleet.