Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force has conducted live-fire tests of its new Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor missile.

The trials, conducted from November 16 to 19, took place off the coast of Hawaii in cooperation with the US Navy.

Tokyo’s JS Maya destroyer launched the SM-3 Block 2A interceptor missile and successfully hit a mock medium-range ballistic missile fired by the US military.

The JS Haguro also used its conventional SM-3 Block 1B missile defense system to neutralize a mock short-range ballistic missile.

The test was held to evaluate the performance of the Aegis-equipped advanced destroyers along with the capabilities of the interceptor missile.

“The success of this joint test marks a critical milestone in demonstrating, for the first time, a live fire of an SM-3 Blk IIA from a Japanese ship,” US Missile Defense Agency director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said.

“The cooperative development of the SM-3 Blk IIA by the Japanese government, US government, and industry team, and the integration with the Aegis Weapon System on Japan’s Ballistic Missile Defense-capable ships, is a remarkable achievement and vitally important in defending against an ever-increasing threat.”

The Sm-3 Interceptors

Raytheon’s SM-3 interceptor missile is a defensive weapon that uses sheer force, rather than an explosive warhead, to neutralize a target.

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It can cover higher altitudes and wider ranges than other interceptor missiles, featuring an enhanced sensor capability to more easily intercept missiles flying on lofted trajectories.

The SM-3 Block 2A, developed in cooperation with Japan, has a larger rocket motor to defend broader areas.

It also has a cutting-edge kinetic warhead for improved search, discrimination, acquisition, and tracking functions.

“This demonstration reinforces that partners now have greater capability with the Standard Missile family of interceptors,” Raytheon official Tay Fitzgerald said. “Allies who use SM-3 can now cooperate more fully with the US on ballistic missile defense missions.”

Increasing Maritime Tensions

The live-fire tests come as tensions continue to grow between Tokyo and China/North Korea.

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida accused Pyongyang of firing an intercontinental ballistic missile that fell in the sea within Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

He stated that the test was “absolutely unacceptable,” and called on the US and South Korea to coordinate on a “complete denuclearization of North Korea.”

Tokyo also accused China and Russia of carrying out unauthorized joint flights over the Sea of Japan, fueling “grave concerns” over national security.