US Military Test-Fires SM-6 Weapons in Missile Defense Test

Standard Missile-6 Dual 1 Missile Launch
One of two Standard Missile-6 Dual 1 missiles launches from the destroyer USS John Paul Jones during a missile defense test against a medium-range ballistic missile target on Dec. 14, 2016, conducted off the coast of Hawaii. (Image credit: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy have launched their latest missile defense test in the Pacific Ocean in a successful demonstration that hurled two interceptors at an incoming medium-range ballistic missile.

The test occurred Dec. 14 and launched two Raytheon-built Standard Missile-6 Dual 1 (SM-6) missiles from the Navy destroyer USS John Paul Jones from just off the coast of Hawaii, MDA officials said in a statement. The two SM-6 projectiles were launched against a medium-range ballistic missile target as part of the MDA's Sea-Based Terminal Program, using Navy ships equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. [Photos: Spectacular Military Missile Launches]

"This test demonstrated the capabilities MDA and the Navy are delivering to our fleet commanders," MDA Director Vice Adm. Jim Syring said in a Dec. 14 statement. "The SM-6 missile and the Aegis Weapon System continue to prove that they are critical components of our nation's multilayered, robust ballistic missile defense system."

"The SM-6 missile uses an explosive warhead to defeat ballistic missile threats, differing from other missile defense interceptors, such as the Standard Missile-3, which use non-explosive hit-to-kill technology," MDA officials wrote in the statement.

The SM-6 Dual 1 missile system reached operational status in 2016. More than 315 missiles have been delivered to the U.S. Navy, and more are in production, Raytheon representatives wrote in a Dec. 19 statement describing the recent test.

The missiles are designed to defend Navy vessels against threats from fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, unmanned drones and cruise missiles, as well as ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of their flight, Raytheon representatives wrote. The missile also can be issued as an offensive weapon, they added.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.