Navy ship destroys ballistic missile for 1st time from foreign sea range


The USS Ross successfully tested its ballistic missile defense system during a live-fire demonstration Tuesday off the coast of Scotland, the first such test for a Navy ship overseas.

The Rota, Spain-based destroyer fired an SM-3 missile and shot down a Terrier Orion ballistic missile flying in space, according to a Navy statement. The Florida-based USS The Sullivans also fired an SM-2 missile at two aerial targets simulating anti-ship cruise missiles targeting the Ross.

The exercise was part of the nine-nation Maritime Theater Defense Forum sea demonstration at the United Kingdom’s Hebrides Range. Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. all provided ships and aircraft for the exercise, while Germany contributed personnel to the combined task group staff.

Vice Adm. James Foggo, commander of U.S. 6th Fleet, said the test demonstrated a cooperative approach to ballistic missile defense in the theater.

“That is a big missile and a highly, technically complex weapons system,” he said by phone Wednesday. “(The test) was in my estimation a wonderful thing for us to be able to demonstrate for our allies and partners.”

The exercise recorded several additional firsts, including the first time the allied coalition used its integrated air and missile defense in a scenario with a simultaneous attack from anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles, the Navy statement said.

Observers watched the demonstration from the USS Mount Whitney, the Italy-based 6th Fleet flagship. Denmark and Japan did not participate, but each sent representatives to watch the exercise.

The Ross used its Aegis system to track and destroy the missile target, while other, non-shooting ships tracked the missile with their own systems. Dutch and Spanish vessels also transmitted targeting information to the Ross, another first for the forum.

The demonstration showed how far partnered ballistic missile defense has come in Europe, Foggo said.

“I think we’ve conquered a lot of those basic impediments to interoperability,” he said. “For example, we’re able to communicate via a common operating picture. We’re able to track incoming missiles and share that information. And in final analysis, we’re able to show that a shooting platform can actually knock down an incoming missile.”

The Japanese presence also served as a reminder of ballistic missile defense upgrades in the Asia-Pacific.

On Monday, the USS Benfold, a destroyer that recently received an upgrade to the most advanced version of the Aegis missile defense system, arrived in its new homeport of Yokosuka, Japan.

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In this screen shot from a U.S. Navy video, an SM-3 missile launches from the destroyer USS Ross during an exercise in the Hebrides Range, near Scotland, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. The missile intercepted a ballistic missile in space, marking a new 1st for a U.S. Navy ship at a foreign range.

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