• US Navy
    US Navy

Elements of the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force have recently provided critical support for a US Navy Ballistic Missile System Defence (BMD) test within the Pacific Missile Range Facility off Hawaii.

Anzac-class frigate HMAS Stuart, together with an RAAF Boeing E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) platform, participated in Flight Test Aegis Weapons System (FTM) 32 – also known as Stellar Laelaps – a trial to demonstrate the US Navy’s capacity to detect, track and engage a simulated Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM).

The “MRBM” was successfully engaged by a Standard SM-6 missile fired from the USS Jack H. Lucas on 28 March. ADF support included a demonstration of HMAS Anzac's CEA CEAFAR radar and the assistance of “data collection and communications” by the Wedgetail aircraft.

USS Jack H. Lucas is the first of the US Navy’s Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to be fitted with a SPY-6 radar and the Baseline 9 version of Lockheed Martin’s Aegis combat system and the test was a critical event in the US Navy’s Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) program.

The Royal Australian Navy currently operates Aegis Baseline 8 in its Hobart-class guided missile destroyers, but will shortly begin upgrading the three ships to Baseline 9 configuration. Australian sensors also supplied target track data during the test in support of what the US Department of Defense’s Missile Defense Defense Agency (MDA) refers to as a “cued organic simulated engagement”.

“This test also represented the most robust participation in an Aegis test to date by US ally Australia, who leveraged the event to demonstrate their own capabilities with participating land, sea and air assets,” a spokesperson for the MDA commented.

FTM-32 is the fourth test of the Aegis BMD system using an SM-6 Dual II missile Software Upgrade (SWUP) round and represents the second such Aegis Baseline 9 intercept of an MRBM target. The test also validated redundancy in the US’ collection of telemetry data.

“This successful interception against an advanced threat-representative target in the final stages of flight demonstrated the power and flexibility of the Aegis Weapons System paired with the Standard Missile 6,” MDA Director Lieutenant General Heath Collins commented.

“MDA is very grateful and honoured to have Australia participate in this important test and we look forward to further collaboration with them in the future as we work together with all of our allies to maintain deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.”

ADF Chief of Joint Operations LTGEN Greg Bilton said the test provided an “excellent opportunity” to demonstrate interoperability with the US Navy.

“This was a unique opportunity to work closely with the MDA and the US Navy as they tested the Aegis Weapons System’s ability to detect, track and defend against short-to-medium range ballistic missiles, while we simultaneously observed the performance of our own systems,” he added.

The Medium-Range Ballistic Missile target was Northrop Grumman’s MRBM Type 3 Configuration 2 (T3c2) platform, which is a two-stage, solid rocket-fuelled ballistic missile. Northrop Grumman has developed and produced three MRBM T3c2s to provide an intercept target for the Aegis/SM-6 Dual II combination.

“This program capitalises on our proven history of innovative rocket design,” commented Northrop Grumman’s Director of Targets Robin Heard. “We continue to invest in technology that delivers these vital capabilities our customers need to respond to growing threats.

“T3c2 is a highly-complex target, providing the realistic scenario needed to test and verify the Aegis Weapons System.”

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