When an SM-3 Block IIA missile failed to intercept a dummy ballistic missile fired during a June 22 test of the Navy’s Aegis anti-ballistic missile system, Kim Jong Un and his cronies in Pyongyang were probably ecstatic. It looked as if the United States’ best hope to intercept any incoming missile attacks was problematic at best.
However, when they pick up the paper this morning (assuming they even have paper in North Korea these days), they’re probably going to be doing a lot less celebrating. New reports suggest the reason the test really failed was human error — and that should have the Juche squad in full panic mode.
According to Defense News, “(a) tactical datalink controller, in charge of maintaining encrypted data exchanges between ships and aircraft, accidentally identified the incoming ballistic missile target as a friendly in the system, causing the SM-3 missile to self-destruct in flight, according to a source familiar with the test.”
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While the Navy obviously wouldn’t comment on the report, they did note that the investigation had led them to conclude the problem lay not with the Aegis interceptor system.
“Though the review is still in process, the SM-3 IIA interceptor and Aegis Combat System have been eliminated as the potential root cause,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, told Defense News.
“We are conducting an extensive review as part of our standard engineering and test processes, and it would be inappropriate to comment further until we complete the investigation.”
According to The Australian, the June 22 test from the guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones in the Pacific was the first test of the system as fired from a warship “that is supposed to manage the whole ‘hit-to-kill’ operation.” The ballistic missile itself was fired from Hawaii.
While the estimated cost for the test — $100 million — is pretty much down the drain, Americans can at least take comfort in the fact that the missile system can likely still do its job.
“As unfortunate as this might be, it’s a good thing that this wasn’t a technology issue or some deeper failure that needs to be investigated at great length and time,” said Thomas Karako, a missile defense expert. “There is no reason to believe the basic capability that has already been demonstrated has any new problems.”
Great news for us, bad news for Kim Jong Un and his multitude of missile tests. Sure, he may be able to make an ICBM that can reach Alaska, but that’s no good if we can shoot it down.
H/T The Drive
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