Pacific Tracker Assists in Key Missile Defense Agency Test

July 2011

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The SIU-crewed Pacific Tracker earlier this year supported an important test successfully conducted by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA).


A mid-April report by the MDA stated that agency personnel along with U.S. Navy sailors aboard the destroyer USS O’Kane and soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command operating from the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, “successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System, resulting in the intercept of a separating ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean. This successful test demonstrated the capability of the first phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach announced by the President in September 2009.”


This marked the United States’ first test of a sea-based defense against longer-range weapons of a particular type, according to agency and news reports. Earlier tests involved shorter-range targets. Operated by Interocean American Shipping, the Pacific Tracker did its part for the exercise, conducted in the pre-dawn hours of April 15. The test involved launching an intermediate-range ballistic missile target from the Marshall Islands, roughly 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. Just 11 minutes after the target was launched, the O’Kane destroyed it. (Official video footage of the exercise, dubbed FTM-15, is posted on YouTube.)

“We were a team, and you could really feel it aboard the ship,” said OMU John Steeber, who provided the photos accompanying this story. “I’ve been on a number of similar missions and while everyone always handles themselves professionally, due to the nature of particular voyage the pride and effort onlast one were outstanding.


”MDA described the test as “the most challenging to date, as it was the first …intercept against an intermediate-range target 1,864 to 3,418 miles) and the first …engagement relying on remote tracking data.” FTM-15 was the 21st successful intercept, in 25 attempts, for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002, according to the agency.


The Pacific Tracker previously sailed for the U.S. Military Sealift Command as the SS Beaver State.


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