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'US Navy lit up the sky': Interceptor for Europe anti-missile shield tested off Hawaii

WASHINGTON -- The United States destroyed a target missile near Hawaii in the first successful test of a new Raytheon Co interceptor designed for an anti-missile shield in Europe, the company and a witness said.

In a statement, Raytheon said the SM-3 Block IB's "kinetic warhead acquired the target with its two-color infrared seeker and tracked it through intercept."

The firm said the target was launched from a missile range facility on the Hawaiian island of Kauai late on Wednesday. The test also involved the USS Lake Erie.

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"The U.S. Navy lit up the sky, knocking out the target missile," said Riki Ellison, a prominent missile-defense advocate who observed the test.

"This next-generation variant of the SM-3 is critical to the ballistic missile defense of the U.S. and our allies, because it can defeat the more sophisticated threats emerging around the world today," Dr. Taylor Lawrence, Raytheon Missile Systems president, said in a statement.

Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, told Reuters he could not yet confirm a successful test.

Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.