Last Updated: 10/30/2013*

A new, more powerful version of the missile-hunting Standard Missile-3 has passed from design to the testing phase, Raytheon announced during a conference in Poland on Wednesday, Oct. 30.

The new Standard Missile-3 Block IIA, developed in cooperation with Japan, features a larger kinetic warhead and bigger rocket motors that allow it to defend broader areas from ballistic missile threats. The SM-3 Block IIA is also the centerpiece of the European missile defense system.

SM3 launch
A Raytheon Standard Missile-3 Block IA is launched during a Japanese test of their ballistic missile defense capability. (Download High Res Photo)

“We’re now ready to move the SM-3 Block IIA from design to build,” said Wes Kremer, vice president of Air and Missile Defense Systems at Raytheon Missile Systems. “To make this happen we’ve partnered with Mitsubishi and the Missile Defense Agency to execute a very thorough and thoughtful design plan. What this really means is that we’re lowering our risk as we move into future flight testing.”

The Critical Design Review verified that the missile’s design will meet the stringent performance requirements necessary to defeat threats and keep the program on track for 2015 flight testing.

This announcement followed the recent 26th successful intercept of another variant, the SM-3 IB, in early in October.

RMS13 SM3 Pic 03
The SM-3 Block IB is based on the highly successful SM-3 Block IA, which is deployed around the world today in the U.S. and Japanese navies. (Download High Res Photo 

The Standard Missile-3 Block IIA will be deployable on land as well as at sea. It will have two distinct new features: larger second and third stage rocket motors and a different version of the kinetic warhead, which destroys threats by slamming into them.

Kremer made the announcement on the sidelines of the 2013 AIAA Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense Conference in Warsaw. More than 300 participants from 20 nations gathered at the conference to discuss the increased role of missile defense on a global scale.

Potentially, ships using either SMART-L radars or the Aegis system could carry SM-3, Kremer said.

“This allows for collaboration and share of burden -- but more importantly, we’d fill coverage gaps for others areas of Europe.” Kremer said.

Beyond the current cooperative development agreement between the U.S. and Japan for SM-3 Block IIA, other navies have expressed interest in the interceptor, including the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Denmark.

Currently, U.S. Navy ships carrying SM-3s deployed off Europe’s coast provide the continent’s only “upper tier” defense from the growing threat of ballistic missiles, but this week in Romania, broke ground on the first land-based SM-3 site. Another land-based site will be deployed by the U.S. in Poland in 2018.

RMS13 SM3 Poland Pic
US, NATO, Romanian partners break ground on missile defense complex (photo and caption provided by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers- Europe District)  

“Partnering allows us to leverage the best technology and better meet the needs of those customers as well,” said Tim Glaeser, vice president of Integrated Air and Missile Defense Systems. “We want to see cooperative development work that forms a strong foundation both in Poland and across Europe,”

To date, more than 155 SM-3s have been delivered to the U.S. and Japanese navies. Worldwide interest in the interceptor continues to grow.


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