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Missile Defense Overview

Why missile defense?

Ballistic missiles have become a serious threat to international security. Missiles are fast, traveling up to 15,000 mph. They can cover long distances, with the most advanced missiles reaching into space and traveling over the North Pole to hit targets. Because they are expensive and can carry only small payloads, rogue countries are more likely to outfit them with weapons of mass destruction.

Countries must be able to detect a missile launch, track an incoming missile or warhead, and then intercept it.

The United States and its allies have developed several overlapping systems to stop missile attacks. Raytheon plays a major role in almost every one of them.

We are, quite simply, the most trusted global partner in missile defense.

Tracking and Discrimination

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Raytheon's powerful AN/TPY-2 radar can discriminate between threats and other objects.

Stopping a missile attack begins with detecting a launch. Space-Tracking and Surveillance System-Demonstrator (STSS-D) satellites carrying Raytheon-built sensors can spot multiple missile launches and beam the information to ships and interceptors.

Early warnings also come from the Sea-based X-Band Radar (SBX), a nine-story-high radar mounted on a converted oil drilling platform. The AN/TPY-2 radar, a mobile radar mounted on a semi truck chassis, provides warning from sites on land. The Air and Missile Defense Radar increases detection range and adds powerful discrimination accuracy, helping naval forces respond to airborne and ballistic missile threats.

Raytheon also makes airborne equipment that can detect missile launches, including Airborne Infrared (ABIR) sensors and the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevator Netted Sensor System (JLENS), a radar system carried by tethered airships.

Upgraded Early Warning Radars are building-sized radars based in California, Alaska, the United Kingdom and Greenland. They and the AN/TPY-2 radar provide tracking information out to 3,000 miles.

Working together, these systems provide detailed information about a missile’s type, trajectory and possible target. They can also help identify a warhead if it is accompanied by decoys.


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The Standard Missile-3 can intercept missiles while they are still in space.

The United States and its allies use overlapping layers of long-range, mid-range and short-range interceptors to shoot down missiles and incoming warheads at a variety of altitudes.

Aegis: This system is carried on warships. It fires the Raytheon-built Standard Missile family of interceptors. The Standard Missile-3 releases a small, non-explosive “kill warhead” that smashes into missiles in space.

The United States is developing a land-based version of Aegis that can be deployed in Eastern Europe. Raytheon is also developing advanced versions of the SM-3, known as the IB and IIA variants. The IIA is a joint project with Japan.

Raytheon is also expanding the capabilities of its sea-basedStandard Missile-6to defend against ballistic missiles in the last phase of their flight.

Ground-based Midcourse Defense: This system uses large, powerful Ground-Based Interceptor missiles launched from underground silos in Alaska and California. The interceptors carry Raytheon’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, which uses sensors and small thrusters to slam itself into warheads. GBIs can reach targets at the highest point in their arc, known as the mid-course phase of flight.

Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD): This land-based system is designed to shoot down threats as they descend from outer space into the upper atmosphere. A Raytheon-built AN/TPY-2 radar detects the threat launch, then guides them toward their targets.

Patriot:This short-range system uses a truck-size radar and launcher. It can fire either the Guided Enhanced Missile (GEM-T), which carries an explosive charge, or the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile, which destroys threats by slamming into them. A new version of the PAC-3 missile, known as the Missile Segment Enhancement, adds a more powerful motor and larger fins.

The Patriot can also defend against aircraft and cruise missiles. Twelve countries use the Patriot system.

Hawk XXI: A short-range system used by 17 nations, the Hawk XXI can defend against aircraft, cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles. It works seamlessly with the Patriot or NASAMS systems.

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The SM-3 kill vehicle destroys targets through the sheer force of impact.

National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System: NASAMS can fire three different Raytheon missiles: the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, the AMRAAM and the AIM-9X.

Iron Dome:This system uses small missiles to provide protection against rockets, artillery and mortars. Raytheon has signed an agreement with Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to market the system in the United States.