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JMSDF demonstrates enhanced BMD capabilities with first SM-3 Block IIA firing

JS Maya , seen here firing the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor against a ballistic target in waters near Hawaii on 16 November 2022. (JMSDF)

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) has demonstrated its ability to engage in enhanced co-operative ballistic missile defence (BMD) operations by test-firing two sea-based variants of the SM-3 interceptor.

The firings were carried out by the Maya-class destroyers, JS Maya and JS Haguro, in waters near Hawaii on 16 and 19 November, respectively, the service disclosed in a statement on 21 November.

Maya deployed an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor while Haguro launched the Block IB variant of the same weapon. Both firings were supported by the US Navy (USN) and the US Missile Defense Agency, the JMSDF statement added.

The SM-3 is a family of interceptors that has been developed by Raytheon to destroy short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The weapon system utilises its own kinetic energy instead of an explosive warhead to destroy targets as part of its β€˜hit-to-kill' method.

The Block IIA variant of the SM-3 has been jointly developed by Japan and the US. It is equipped with larger rocket motors, which provide the weapon with enhanced range and ability to protect wider areas from ballistic missile threats.

Meanwhile, the SM-3 Block IB is an interceptor that was first test-launched in 2014. It became operational on selected USN warships in the later part of the year.

The launch from Maya on 16 November represents the first firing of the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor from a Japanese warship. In addition, the two test-firings make the JMSDF the first non-US naval service that can intercept ballistic targets with both Block IIA and Block IB variants of the SM-3 interceptor.

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