An SM-3 Block IA missile is launched from the USS O'Kane in Friday's flight test. Courtesy of U.S. Navy

A missile made by Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems intercepted an intermediate range ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean early today, in a key test of the Obama administration’s planned European missile shield.

The test shot was the first flight test of a Standard Missile-3 Block IA against an intermediate-range missile, and also showed the missile’s ability to hit a ballistic missile target when “launched on remote” — using a forward-based radar also made by Raytheon.

Raytheon said the test certified the first phase of the the European Phased Adaptive Approach. Under that plan, the U.S. is deploying the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system and its SM-3 missiles, with a land-based version still under development, to protect Europe.

As part of the first phase of that program, a U.S. Navy cruiser equipped with SM-3 Block IA missiles sailed to the Mediterranean Sea earlier last month for a six-month deployment.

Friday’s test was the 21st successful intercept in 25 attempts for the Aegis system, since flight testing began in 2002, the Missile Defense Agency said.

During the test at about 7 p.m.Marshall Island Time (about midnight Arizona time) a ballistic missile target was launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marhsalls. As it rose above the horizon, the target was acquired and tracked by a forward-based AN/TPY-2 X-band radar, made by Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems and located on Wake Island.  

The target information was relayed via a control center in Hawaii to the Aegis-equipped destroyer USS O’Kane, which forwarded targeting information to the SM-3 and launched the interceptor, the MDA said. The SM-3 Block IA engaged the target, and its non-explosive warhead tracked the missile and steered into its path, destroying it in a “hit-to-kill” intercept.

During the test, operator at the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command in Hawaii received targeting data from various sources, including the Raytheon radar and two demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites (STSS), launched in 2009, the MDA said.

Raytheon has delivered more than 130 SM-3s to date for deployment by the the U.S. and Japanese navies.