Tests of Raytheon interceptor clear way for $2B program

The guided missile destroyer USS Hopper fired a Standard Missile-3 Block IB during a test on May 25 near Hawaii.

Japan successfully intercepted a ballistic missile target in a recent test using an upgraded interceptor made by Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said Wednesday.

Part of the cooperative U.S.-Japan missile defense program, the test was intended to verify the engagement capability of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense fire-control system recently upgraded on the Japanese guided-missile destroyer the JS Atago.

During the test with the U.S. Navy off the coast of Hawaii, a ballistic missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai.

JS Atago crew members detected and tracked the target and, using the Aegis system, fired a Standard Missile-3 Block IB "Threat Upgrade" variant that intercepted the target, the MDA said.

The Threat Upgrade features new software to give the SM-3’s hit-to-kill warhead the ability to hunt down more complicated targets, Raytheon said when it unveiled the upgrade in 2015.

Japan is looking to upgrade its missile-defense capabilities in response to growing missile capabilities of North Korea and China.