When you stop to think about it, this bit of news kinda makes last year’s surface-to-satellite shoot-down sound a little… pedestrian. It’s been announced that the U.S. Navy successfully intercepted a short-range ballistic missile 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean.
A ship basically destroyed a missile, in space.
At an altitude of 100 miles.
Details are a little sketchy, but the event took place on July 30th and the Navy weapon of choice was a Standard Missile-3 block 1A missile — a similar missile was used during the February 2008 satellite intercept — fired from the USS Hopper. The dummy target ballistic missile was fired from the Hawaiian island of Kauai and it was tracked by the Hopper and USS O’Kane (both destroyers) and consequently shot down.
This marks the 19th successful intercept (out of 23) of high-altitude targets (including the Feb. 2008 spy satellite shoot-down) for the U.S. military’s Aegis Missile Defense system.
To be honest, I was totally floored when I heard the U.S. military had the capability to shoot down a satellite at an altitude of about 130 miles, but to pick out an even smaller target at a comparable altitude is amazing (although the satellite, travelling at 17,000 mph, might have been going faster than a speeding ballistic missile… I might be wrong).
So it looks like the U.S. military is pretty good at taking out ballistic threats after all…