The Pentagon on Thursday conducted a successful operational flight test of the Standard Missile 3 Block 1B missile interceptor -- the success of which means the Pentagon is getting closer to giving the order to start full-scale production of the weapon.
Defense Department plans call for Block 1B interceptors to be fielded in Romania in 2015 and in Poland in 2018 as part of the United States' contribution to NATO's ballistic missile shield.
The defensive weapon also is expected to be fielded throughout the country's fleet of 28 Aegis-equipped warships and on Japan's fleet of four Aegis missile destroyers, according to a Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance press release.
The order to begin "sustained production" of the interceptor will not be given until after a comprehensive two-month assessment has been completed of the data collected from Thursday's intercept test, U.S. Missile Defense Agency spokesman Richard Lehner said in a Friday e-mail.
The test involved the interception of a medium-range dummy ballistic missile. The target was fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai in Hawaii around 7:30 local time. After picking up and monitoring the target's flight path using a shipboard radar, the USS Lake Erie launched a Block 1B against the dummy missile, which was eliminated by a hit-to-kill warhead released by the interceptor, according to a Pentagon press release.
This week's test comes shortly after another successful Block 1B intercept trial in September.
The interceptor is designed to counter short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles during the midcourse phase of their flight. The Pentagon has already ordered 67 Block 1B missiles from weapons developer Raytheon, Lehner said.