With the aid of a Dutch De Zeven Provincien-class frigate, the US Navy destroyer USS Paul Ignatius (DDG 117) has used two Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Blk IA interceptors to destroy ballistic missiles while they were still in space during the Formidable Shield 2021 NATO sea exercises off the coast of Scotland .
The US Navy being able to intercept ballistic missiles isn’t new, but being able to do so in partnership with NATO ships is. What is newsworthy is that, until now, this sea capability was exclusive to the United States because of the nature of the technology.
The SM-3 used in the tests is capable of reaching an altitude of 652 miles (1,050 km) and reaching a speed of Mach 10 (6,615 knots, 7,613 mph, 12,251 km/h), but that’s useless without the systems capable of detecting and tracking incoming missiles and then calculating the precise intercept trajectories, which the ships provide.
The latter is particularly important because the interceptor doesn’t use an explosive warhead to destroy its target, but is what is called a kinetic kill vehicle. The combined hypersonic closing speed of the missile and interceptor is so great that sheer momentum is more than enough force for the job, which is the equivalent of hitting a bullet with a bullet. This means the calculations and course corrections must be incredibly precise.
During the Formidable Shield exercise, the missiles were fired from the Hebrides Range, which is run by the British Ministry of Defence, off the northwest coast of Scotland on May 26 and May 30, 2021. What was different was that, instead of the US Navy ships carrying out the intercept alone, the incoming ballistic missiles were targeted with the aid of the Royal Netherlands Navy’s HNLMS De Zeven Provincien (F802) using its advanced combat system suite. The USS Paul Ignatius used the shared data to calculate a firing solution to launch its interceptors.
This teamwork was a demonstration that NATO forces can now operate with the US Navy for ballistic missile defenses, allowing for much greater flexibility when it comes to force deployments. Since it is routine for NATO and other Western allied navies to work together, a basic requirement is that the ships involved are able to do the same jobs. In this case, the ability to track and share fire control quality data across multiple partners, domains, and data networks.
Formidable Shield included 15 ships, dozens of aircraft, and about 3,300 personnel, from the United States, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain, and took place off the coasts of Scotland and Norway.
“Today marks the dawn of a new day for maritime ballistic missile defense and the seamless integration of combatant capability provided by the international naval forces of Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO),” said Commander Task Group, Integrated Air and Missile Defense, Captain Jonathan D. Lipps.
Source: US Navy