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Bigger & Better: The Evolution of a Ballistic Missile Killer

The Missile Defense Agency tested a Raytheon-made Standard Missile-3 Block IIA guided missile at White Sands Missile Range on Oct. 24, 2013.

Ballistic missile defense is constantly evolving to meet new threats. In the same way, Standard Missile-3 is evolving - with the help of a strong international partnership and innovative engineering.

Standard Missile-3 is an interceptor designed to take out short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles in space. The latest evolution of the SM-3 – the Block IIA, is being developed jointly by Raytheon and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. 

According to Dr. Mitch Stevison, program director, the SM-3 Block IIA is a ‘game changer’ not only for its ability to go farther and take out threats sooner, but because of its ability to be based at sea or on land.

The next generation SM-3 Block IIA received an unconditional pass during its 2013 critical design review last fall and remains on track for sea and land deployment in 2018.

“The beauty of this missile is that it can be used in either construct in varying missions and locations with no modification to the missile,” Stevison said.

On Oct. 24, 2013, the first land-based SM-3 Block IIA test took place at White Sands Missile Range. The test proved that the heavier, larger SM-3 Block IIA can be safely launched using an existing MK 72 booster from the MK 41 vertical launcher.

The SM-3 Block IIA is bigger than previous versions and has a larger kinetic warhead. “It’s a full caliber missile, and that additional volume will give it significantly greater reach,” said Mike Mathis, vice president of business development.

Mathis said the test signified the robustness of the SM-3 program’s incremental ‘crawl, walk, run’ development and testing strategy.

“The SM-3 Block IIA program is significantly more mature at this point in its development process because of our evolutionary approach,” Mathis said.

This missile’s evolution won’t stop with deployment in 2018.

According to Mathis, Raytheon experts are already studying how to backfit the SM-3 Block IB with breakthrough SM-3 Block IIA technologies to further improve its already impressive performance.

As ballistic missile threats continue to evolve in the next decade, Raytheon’s flexible approach will be applied to other programs. “Design work in guidance, detection and discrimination can clearly be leveraged in advanced kill vehicle programs,” Mathis said.

Published: 10/06/2014

Last Updated: 01/15/2015

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