Japan Shoots Down Ballistic Missile Off Hawaii In Successful Test Of US Aegis System

Intercept flight test of a land-based Aegis Ballistic Missile in Kauai, Hawaii
Japan has successfully shot down a practice target during testing of the Aegis ballistic defense system which it developed with the United States. Defense officials from respective countries said the trial demonstrated the growing US-Japan military alliance. (Photo: REUTERS/U.S. Missile Defense Agency/Leah Garton/Handout)

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System launched from a Japanese warship off the coast of Kauai in Hawaii has successfully intercepted and destroyed a practice target on test trials conducted by Japan on Sept. 11.

Japan is a collaborator of the United States in developing the Aegis ballistic defense system. The Aegis combat system is built with powerful computers and radars that could track multiple targets at any given time. It is also equipped with a missile system that can fire dozens of rockets simultaneously.

In a statement announcing the successful trial, Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said the practice target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands in Kauai. The Aegis system has guided the Japanese destroyer to be able to track and shoot down the intended target.

MDA explained that Aegis Weapon System is designed to develop a fire control solution before subsequently firing a Standard Missile-3 Block IIA rocket. The agency said the successful test trial is a significant milestone in the growing cooperation between Japan and the United States with regard to missile defense.

Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, director of Pentagon's MDA, said the successful trial demonstrated the future capability of Japan to defend itself from the evolving threats in the region.

The Japan Times reported that the country's defense officials have always referred to North Korean missiles as the growing threat in the region. In fact, Japanese officials were hopeful the trialed SM-3 would be its major defense against Pyongyang's missiles which proved to have faster speed and higher trajectory. North Korea has for several times tested firing its ballistic missiles to the direction of Japan without any form of heads-up, retired Vice Adm Toshiyuki Ito said.

Meanwhile, Japan is also celebrating the launching ceremony of its new warship, the Maya-class Aegis destroyer. The warship measures 169.9 meters in length and weighs 8,200 tons. The destroyer was yet to be equipped with the intended weapon systems during the launching but the Japanese government is expected to hand it over to its military by March of 2020. It was not immediately clear whether the Maya destroyer was the one used during the practice firing off the Hawaii coast.

The Japanese government spent $1.5 billion on the development of the new warship and its weapon systems. As soon as the Maya-class Aegis destroyer is officially deployed, it will be the country's most powerful warship.

Japan is aiming to build eight Aegis destroyers with ballistic missile defense capability by 2021, The Japan Times reported. Four of these planned warships will be fully furnished with the SM-3 Block IIA missiles.

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