Using a new version of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System produced by Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Moorestown plant, the Navy detected and destroyed a short-range scudlike target yesterday off Hawaii.
It was the first test of the next version of the complex Aegis system, developed at the Burlington County plant where 5,500 people work.
The test shows the new Aegis version "can now kill a missile in space and kill a missile in the final 30 to 70 seconds of flight," Rear Adm. Brad Hicks, the Pentagon's Aegis program director, told reporters in a conference call.
The latest version - Aegis BMD 3.6.1 - upgrades the system's ability to detect, track and destroy short-range missiles during the terminal phase of flight. It will be certified for deployment later this year in the Navy's fleet and installed on all 18 Aegis-equipped ships within 20 months, Hicks said.
Aegis has proved in previous tests that it can detect multiple missiles at high altitudes and tell the difference between warheads, launch vehicles and decoys. The new version adds the ability to get another shot if the first attempts fail, Hicks said.
The Navy crew aboard the Lake Erie "was on a routine ballistic-missile patrol. The crew wasn't alerted" in advance, Hicks said.
The Aegis SPY-1B radar, also designed and built at the Moorestown complex, detected the incoming missile, then launched and guided two missiles to successfully intercept it - all within 52 seconds, Hicks said.
The test also showed that the Lake Erie had been restored to its missile-defense mission. In February, the cruiser's Aegis system was temporarily modified by Moorestown engineers and technicians to shoot down a defective spy satellite orbiting 130 miles above the Earth.
The National Reconnaissance Office had lost control of the spy satellite. It was about to return to Earth laden with 1,000 pounds of toxic hydrazine fuel, when the Aegis was modified to successfully destroy it.
Aegis systems are aboard 85 ships worldwide. An additional 20 vessels are planned. It is also used by the navies of Japan, South Korea, Norway, Spain and Australia.