WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military and eight allied countries on Tuesday worked together to simultaneously intercept dummy ballistic and cruise missiles off the coast of Scotland, the U.S. Navy said, calling the test an important first demonstration of that capability in Europe.
It was the first time that a Standard Missile-3 Block IA guided interceptor built by Raytheon Co was fired on a non-U.S. range, and the first intercept of a ballistic missile threat target in Europe, the Navy said.
A Dutch ship tracked the target and relayed targeting information to the USS Ross, a U.S. Navy Aegis ship.
The long-planned test involved ships from the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Britain. It came as Russia stepped up its use of cruise missiles against Islamic State military in Syria.
"This exercise demonstrates the commitment of the United States to the defense of Europe through our Aegis ships and our shore station in Romania, as well as the professional performance of our allied sailors," said Admiral Mark Ferguson, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.
Ferguson said the test carried out by the Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum showed the group's ability to "safely conduct effective coalition sea-based defense against simultaneous anti-ship and ballistic missile threats."
Riki Ellison, founder of the nonprofit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, said the test showed that other countries' navies could track and relay targeting and firing information about potential missile threats to U.S. Navy ships.
That means the U.S. Navy can reduce the number of ships it needs for missile defense missions in the Mediterranean, instead using allied ships to help relay missile threat tracking and targeting information, he said.
"This is great timing because it demonstrates our capability to track and intercept the kind of missiles that are being fired in and against Syria," he said.
"It proves that sensors from another country's ship can be used to give the Navy early warning of potential threats, and those ships can be used to protect American ships," he said.
U.S. Navy ships need protective escorts because they cannot protect themselves when they are carrying out missile defense missions, he said.
Earlier this month, U.S. officials said four Russian cruise missiles fired at Syria from the Caspian Sea had crashed in Iran, while Russia insisted they had reached their targets in Syria.
Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by David Gregorio