Last Updated: 10/04/2013*

A missile interceptor has set an all-time altitude record, streaking into space in a shot that bested the much-publicized shootdown of a crippled satellite in 2008.

Post-mission data analysis shows the Raytheon-built Standard Missile-3 Block IB reached the record height during a Sept. 18 test. Another SM-3 Block 1B took out a medium-range ballistic missile target on Thursday.

“The higher a threat is destroyed in its trajectory the better, because it extends the military’s response options by providing more time for decision making,” said Kenyon Hiser, Raytheon Missile Systems’ SM-3 deputy program director.

SM3 launch
A Standard Missile-3 Block 1B interceptor launches from the USS Lake Erie in this photo from the record-setting test on Sept. 18, 2013. (Photo: Missile Defense Agency) (Download High Res Photo)

Although the exact altitude of the Sept. 18 flight is classified, the intercept was higher than the famous satellite shootdown in 2008. During that mission, a modified SM-3 intercepted a non-functioning satellite containing toxic fuel that was slipping out of orbit.

The latest tests show the Standard Missile-3 Block 1B is on schedule for deployment in 2015, said Dr. Taylor Lawrence, president of Raytheon Missile Systems.

The new variant of the SM-3 has flown five back-to-back flight tests successfully. Overall, the entire Standard Missile-3 program has racked up 26 successful interceptions.

 “We continue to increase the complexity of the testing scenarios to reflect what we would see in an operational environment,” said Dr. Mitch Stevison, Raytheon Missile Systems’ SM-3 program director. 

Intercepting threats high in their flight path gives warfighters several advantages, but arguably the most important is the ability to ‘shoot-look-shoot:’ Shoot at the threat. Look to see if the threat was destroyed, and if necessary, shoot again.

“The missile continues to perform, and that increases our confidence in the SM-3 Block IB’s readiness for production,” Stevison said.


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