MELBOURNE, Australia – Japan successfully carried out ballistic intercepts near Hawaii using missiles launched from destroyers, validating the ships’ defense capabilities in the process.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency said Nov. 21 that two live-fire events were conducted over a two-week period involving Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers JS Haguro and JS Maya.

The event, designated Japan Flight Test Mission-07 and held in cooperation with the U.S. Navy, also demonstrated the capability of the SM-3 Block IIA, being developed cooperatively by the two countries to defeat medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

The first live fire event saw a successful engagement of a T4-E medium range ballistic missile target by a Standard Missile 3 Block IIA fired from the JS Maya. The Aegis-equipped destroyer tracked and fired on the target successfully destroying it over the Pacific Ocean, marking the first occasion that a Maya-class destroyer has fired a SM-3.

A subsequent live-fire exercise demonstrated a successful integrated air and missile defense scenario using SM-3 Block IB and a SM-2 Block IIIB missiles fired from the JS Haguro against a short-range ballistic missile target and an Anti-Air Warfare engagement against a BQM-177 target drone.

The engagement also involved the Cooperative Engagement Capability fitted on both ships, with the JS Maya detecting and tracking the missile target before the JS Haguro shot it down using the data from its sister ship, Nikkei Asia reported.

The MDA said that JFTM-07 is a significant milestone in the cooperation between Japan and the U.S. in missile defense, adding that its goal is “to support the JMSDF ballistic missile defense modernization and certification of the Japanese Aegis Weapon System Baseline J7 and Maya class destroyer deployment.”

The SM-3 block IIA interceptor is a joint development project between Raytheon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, adding a larger diameter interceptor that is more maneuverable, and carries an upgraded advanced discrimination seeker and a kinetic warhead

Japan has eight Aegis destroyers equipped for air- and missile-defense, and plans to build two more dedicated missile defense ships centered around the Lockheed-Martin SPY-7(V)1 radars that it had earmarked for two land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense facilities.

The Aegis Ashore project was however abandoned due to “technical difficulties” and opposition from residents living near the chosen sites, fueled in part by revelations the Japanese government failed to carry out a thorough survey of the sites before selecting them.

It was then decided that Japan will built two Aegis System-Equipped Vessels to replace the land-based facilities. The ships will be 210 meters (689 feet) long with a beam of 40 meters and displace some 20,000 tons, Jiji Press reported.

The ships will each have a crew complement of 110 and will also carry SM-6 missiles for air defense and indigenous Type 12 anti-ship missiles, it said. Japanese defense minister Yasukazu Hamada has said that ships are planned to be commissioned in early 2028 and 2029.

The SPY-7(V)1 radar uses scaled equipment and software derived from the MDA’s advanced Long Range Discriminating Radar located in Clear, Alaska.

The MDA announced in August that it had successfully demonstrated the Release 3 software build of Aegis Baseline J7.B software together with the SPY-7(V)1 radar for the ASEV program. This follows a successful demonstration of Release 2 software in January, which showed it was able to engage ballistic missiles with the SM-3 Block IIA.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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