In 2007, the USS Decatur became the first American destroyer fire a Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) to intercept a ballistic missile target. The test missile was fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii.
The destroyer Decatur will leave San Diego on Tuesday on a deployment that is mainly devoted to continuing the development of Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), an evolving system that's meant to give the Navy the reliable ability to intercept short and intermediate-range missiles in various phases of flight.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency is developing BMD as a primary means to detect and neutralize ballistic missiles that could be fired against assets of the United States and its allies. The Defense Department has cited particular concern about Iran, which can fire short and medium-range missiles, and North Korea, which is capable of striking South Korea and Japan with missiles, says the MDA.
The 505-foot Decatur is one of the first sea-based platforms to stock variants of the Standard missile that can serve as ballistic missile interceptors. Only 21 American warships are "BMD capable," a number that is going to rise, says Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations.
The Decatur will deploy to the Fifth Fleet area of responsibility, which extends from the Persian Gulf to parts of East Africa.
"In addition to providing ballistic missile defense capacity to two regional combatant commanders, Decatur will support the defense of key Iraqi oil infrastructure in the North Arabian Gulf with coalition partners, as well as participation in maritime security operations," said Commander Jason Salata, a spokesman for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, in San Diego.