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The guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson steams near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, July 14, 2020.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson steams near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, July 14, 2020. (Anthony Collier/U.S. Navy)

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. Missile Defense Agency, in concert with the Navy, today fired four SM-6 Dual II missiles against a "raid " of two short-range ballistic missile targets in the "broad ocean area " northwest of Hawaii.

The test described as the "most complex mission executed by MDA" resulted in at least one target being intercepted, the agency said.

"Based on initial observations, one target was successfully intercepted. At this time, we cannot confirm the second target was destroyed, " MDA said in a news release. The target missiles were fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

The firing ship for the test was the destroyer USS Ralph Johnson. The warship returned from its maiden deployment Jan. 14 from the Middle East and Western Pacific to its home port of Naval Station Everett, Wash., the Navy said.

The USS Mustin will be replaced in Yokosuka, Japan, by the Ralph Johnson, military.com reported in late June. Short-range ballistic missiles have a range up to about 620 miles.

North Korea announced the launch of a "new-type" of missile on March 25 that may be a variant of its KN-23 short-range ballistic missile, reported website 38north.org, which tracks North Korea activities.

Raytheon Co. said the SM-6 missile "is three missiles in one. It's the only weapon that can perform anti-air warfare, ballistic missile defense and anti-surface warfare missions."

The $5 million SM-6 missile can intercept cruise missiles and demonstrated the ability to strike surface targets in 2016. Raytheon said it upgraded the software on the SM-6 in 2017 to better engage medium-range ballistic missile threats.

The missile provides protection for aircraft carriers and is being developed as a defense against hypersonic threats.

On May 29, the Missile Defense Agency fired two SM-6 Dual II missiles from a destroyer off Kauai attempting to intercept a medium-range ballistic missile target, but failed to strike the mock enemy missile.

Today's launch of four SM-6 missiles against two simulated enemy missiles, designated FTM-33, was originally scheduled for December but was delayed due to restrictions in personnel and equipment movement intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Missile Defense Agency said.

MDA said its mission is to develop and deploy a layered missile defense system to defend the U.S., its deployed forces, allies, and friends from missile attacks of all ranges in all phases of flight.

(c)2021 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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