Thursday, May 22, 2014

US tests cornerstone of European antimissile shield

May 22, 2014

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The US has successfully test-fired Aegis Ashore, the land-based version of the naval antiballistic missile system, which is to be deployed in Eastern Europe starting next year despite Moscow’s objections.

The US Missile Defense Agency and the Navy have for the first time test-fired the land-based version of Aegis BMD on Tuesday, with engineers from Lockheed Martin, producer of the system, participating in the test. A Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) Block IB was fired from an installation on Kauai, Hawaii, and successfully hit a simulated target. The test was aimed at verifying safe launch and fly-out of the missile from the launch facility.

The US plans to conduct a test with a real target next year before a scheduled deployment of Aegis Ashore in Romania. A second similar system is to be deployed in Poland in 2018.

The systems are meant to intercept ballistic and cruise missiles mid-course. The US insists they are needed to protect America’s Eastern European allies from possible missile attack by North Korea and Iran, but Russia is certain that they are aimed at weakening its nuclear deterrence capability.

“We had a very successful flight test,” Brendan Scanlon, Lockheed Martin’s director of Aegis Ashore programs, told reporters Wednesday morning during a phone conference. “That is a major milestone for us.”

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