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Land-based launcher fires Navy's Standard Missile-3

Key step toward interceptor's European deployment

The Aegis Ashore Weapon System launches a Standard Missile-3 Block IB guided missile from the land-based Vertical Launch System during a Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy test from Kauai, Hawaii on May 20, 2014. (Missile Defense Agency Photo)

The U.S. Navy has fired a Standard Missile-3 from a land-based launcher, a key test as the United States moves toward deploying the interceptor in Romania to protect Europe from ballistic missile attacks.

The Standard Missile-3 roared into the sky from an Aegis Ashore test site located at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.

The test on Tuesday did not involve a target and was designed to answer one question: Can an SM-3 be launched from a land-based combat weapon system as well as it can from sea?

The answer was a resounding yes.

“There are few differences between launching Standard Missile-3 from a ship versus land-based systems,” said Wes Kremer, vice president of Air and Missile Defense Systems. “It’s the same missile whether sea- or land-based. This provides defense planners and the warfighter with incredible flexibility to address the whole gamut of threats and geographic limitations.”

The deckhouse for the Aegis Ashore system at the Pacific Missile Range Facility. This is the test facility for the Aegis Ashore system that will be emplaced in Romania and Poland. (Missile Defense Agency Photo)

That familiarity will be reassuring as sailors are set to embark upon new assignments in Romania next year when the first land-based Standard Missile-3 site becomes operational. Construction on that site began last year.

“Romania’s Aegis Ashore site will complement other U.S. Navy ships already in the area carrying SM-3s,” said Dr. Mitch Stevison, senior director of the Standard Missile-3 program. “Not only will more of Europe be covered, but the coverage that currently exists will be more robust.”

Both the land and sea-based SM-3s are designed to protect Europe from ballistic missile attack as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).

The Phased Adaptive Approach's first phase began in 2011 with the deployment of the USS Monterey off the coast of Europe carrying the first-generation Standard Missile-3 Block IA. The program's second phase began early in 2014 with the sea-based deployment of the next generation SM-3 Block IB earlier this year.

“Today’s test wasn’t an intercept flight test, but we had five successful back-to-back SM-3 intercept flight tests in 2013, and there’s a lot of confidence in this missile’s capabilities,” said Stevison. “These are proven technologies. Moving this capability from sea to land makes sense.”

Like the sea version, the Aegis Ashore site will have a vertical launch system capable of carrying SM-3 missiles. The SM-3 Block IB is slated for the 2015 Romanian site, while the SM-3 Block IIA is on track for a 2018 deployment in the second land-based site in Poland.

The evolution of Standard Missile-3, a part of the Phased Adaptive Approach. (click for larger view)

The SM-3 Block IIA is a larger missile being developed jointly by Raytheon and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. It goes farther and takes out threats sooner, making it a ballistic missile defense “game changer” according to Stevison.

The Poland site will provide additional coverage for northern Europe. During a trip to Poland this year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed on-going plans, reaffirming the US’s commitment to deploying this missile defense site in 2018.

Last Updated: 07/10/2014

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