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Guided-missile test prompts calls from Hawaii residents

An SM-3 Block IB guided missile from the land-based Vertical Launch System takes off Tuesday evening, May 20, 2014, during a test of the Navy and Missile Defense Agency's Aegis Ashore weapons system at Kauai, Hawaii.

HONOLULU — The Defense Department conducted a test of a land-based missile system about the same time that mysterious lights were seen and photographed in the skies above Hawaii.

The Missile Defense Agency, the U.S. Navy, and sailors at the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex and Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai launched a land-based Aegis Standard Missile 3 Block IB guided missile.

It was the first test of the new Aegis Ashore system. Interceptor missiles were launched from ships in previous tests, The Associated Press reported.

During the test, a simulated ballistic missile target was acquired, tracked, and engaged by the Aegis Weapon System at about 7:35 p.m. Hawaii time Tuesday.

At about the same time, many Hawaii residents reported seeing a strange light in the sky that looked like a missile contrail.

"It looked like a zig zagging meteor threading in and out of the night sky," said Paul Javier.

Stefan Alford, a spokesman for the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, told the AP that the lines were condensed water vapor trailing the missile twisted by upper level winds.

The purpose of the missile test was to confirm that the Aegis Ashore system works by launching a land-based SM-3. A test missile target was not launched.

The Aegis Ashore system is similar to the launch system, fire control system, and SPY-1 radar used on U.S. and Japanese navy ships.

The Aegis Ashore system is planned to be deployed in Romania in 2015 as part of the European missile defense shield. The missiles destroy incoming ballistic missile threats in space using sheer impact, the AP said.

The Pacific Missile Range Facility had announced earlier this month that they would be conducting a test.

Tuesday's test is the first of several planned at the Barking Sands, Kauai facility for the land-based Aegis system.

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