The mysterious lights that Hawaii residents saw in the Tuesday night sky was indeed the shifting contrails of the Aegis missile that was being tested on Kauai, according to the public affairs officer at the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands.
Public Affairs Officer Stefan Alford explained that people saw the shifting contrails of the missile as the upper level winds twisted the smoke trail.
This was the first flight test of a new missile defense system designed to protect NATO forces in Europe from ballistic missile attack.
The Pentagon said Wednesday that the Missile Defense Agency and the Navy used the Aegis Weapon System to track a simulated target. They successfully fired a missile to intercept the target Tuesday evening.
They used a Standard Missile-3 Block IB missile made by defense contractor Raytheon Co. in the test.
At around 7:35 p.m. the Aegis Weapon System fired the missile from the Vertical Launch System. Several fire control and engagement functions were exercised during the test. A live target missile launch was not planned for this flight test.
The primary purpose of the test was to confirm the functionality of Aegis Ashore by launching a land-based SM-3. The Aegis Ashore system uses a nearly identical configuration of the Vertical Launch System, fire control system, and SPY-1 radar currently in use aboard Aegis cruisers and destroyers deployed around the world.
Another test next year will have the missile intercept a target.
Raytheon says the European Phased Adaptive Approach plan for missile defense calls for the first Aegis Ashore to be operational in Romania in 2015. The second Aegis Ashore site is on track for Poland in 2018.