At 1:30 am this morning – 7:30 pm yesterday Hawaiian time — the Navy’s newest missile defense system marked its second successful shootdown in a month. Under what Lockheed Martin called an “operationally realistic scenario” – more on that in a moment – the USS Lake Erie picked up the target with its Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense “version 4.0.2” fire control system and launched a Raytheon Standard Missile-3 Block IB to blow it out of the Pacific sky.
Code-named FTM-22, the test was one more step towards an anti-missile system that could make North Korea or Iran think twice before launching their relatively small arsenals of ballistic missiles. And that’s the principal reason for the missile defense program: to deter those two countries.
But China’s infamous Second Artillery Force commands, by the Pentagon’s public estimate, more than 1,100 short-ranged ballistic missiles (SRBMs), not counting smaller numbers of longer-ranged types. A single Aegis destroyer can carry at most 96 Standard Missiles in its launchers, and the Navy has four of them upgraded to do BMD, with another five in the current program of record. That math means that even if all nine were deployed in the Western Pacific (logistically unlikely) and all 864 Standards hit their targets (simply impossible), at least 300 Chinese missiles would get through.