US, Japan stage successful missile-defense test

* Japanese destroyer downs target missile off Hawaii

* Test follows Clinton talks with Japan foreign minister

* U.S., Japan forces hail it as “milestone”

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON, Oct 29 (BestGrowthStock) – A Japanese naval destroyer
equipped with a Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N: ) Aegis ballistic
missile defense system carried out a successful
flight-intercept test on Thursday in a “milestone” of growing
cooperation, Japanese and U.S. forces announced.

The test focused attention on mounting U.S. missile defense
ties with Tokyo even as Washington urges its NATO allies to
join in a NATO-wide shield prompted largely by concerns over
Iran.

Japan’s interest in missile shields jumped in August 1998
when North Korea test-fired a Taepo Dong-1 ballistic missile
that flew over Japan before falling in the Pacific.

The intercept test, about 100 miles (160 km) above Hawaiian
waters, marked the fourth time a Japan Maritime Self-Defense
force had engaged a ballistic missile target, including three
successful intercepts.

It “verified the newest engagement capability” of the
ballistic missile defense upgrade of the JS Kirishima, the
U.S.-Japanese statement said. The ship is the fourth Japanese
destroyer to be upgraded for this mission.

“We hit it!” e-mailed Riki Ellison, a prominent
missile-defense advocate who viewed the separating 1,000 km-
class ballistic missile target as it was launched from the
Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai,
Hawaii.

The long-planned test came shortly after U.S. Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton met Japan’s foreign minister in Hawaii at
the start of a two-week trip to an Asia-Pacific region rattled
by recent Chinese assertiveness.

The Kirishima’s crew detected and tracked the target. The
Aegis Weapon System then launched a Raytheon Co (RTN.N)
Standard Missile -3 (SM-3) Block IA missile, the statement
said.

Also joining in the test were Aegis-equipped U.S. Navy
ships Lake Erie and Russell. They cooperated to detect, track
and conduct a simulated intercept engagement against the same
target, the statement said.

Missile defense is a multibillion-dollar business for
Pentagon contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing Co (BA.N: ),Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N: ), Raytheon Co (RTN.N: ) and Orbital
Sciences Corp (ORB.N: ).

The target missile was launched shortly after 5 p.m. Hawaii
time on Thursday, or shortly after noon Tokyo time on Friday.
The test was a “significant milestone in the growing
cooperation between Japan and the U.S. in the area of missile
defense,” the statement issued by the Pentagon’s Missile
Defense Agency said.

Lockheed Martin said in a separate statement the test
completed the planned upgrade of the Japanese navy destroyers
with their new Aegis missile defense capability.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)

US, Japan stage successful missile-defense test