Last Updated: 03/22/2013*
When ships and missiles talk, they don’t do it over coffee; they do it over datalinks.
A key component of Raytheon’s Standard Missile-3, the “dual-band datalink,” has successfully exchanged information with a Dutch X-band radar, moving the company one step closer to proving that European ships with this radar can employ SM-3s to defend the continent against ballistic missiles.
The SM-3 destroys attacking missiles by colliding with them while they are still in space. U.S. Navy ships carrying SM-3s are currently deployed off Europe’s coast providing the continent’s only “upper tier” defense from this growing threat.
The new dual-band datalink could broaden Europe’s options when it comes to participating in its own protection, said Wes Kremer, vice president of Raytheon’s Air and Missile Defense Systems.
“A NATO pool of SM-3 interceptors shared between European countries is a feasible path forward if more European partners can employ the SM-3,” Kremer said.
The SM-3’s onboard datalink communicates with outside radars to help guide the missile toward its target. The new dual-band datalink is a drop-in replacement that Raytheon is developing with the company’s own funds.
The March 5 test took place at a shore-based test facility in Den Helder, Netherlands, on the North Sea coast.
Engineers used a Thales-made Advanced Phased Array Radar, or APAR, to send information to the datalink, which responded by sending data back. No missile was launched during the test.
SM-3s were originally designed to communicate with the Aegis Combat Weapon System, which operates in a radio frequency range known as S-band. Currently Spain and Norway are the only European nations with Aegis ships that can employ SM-3s.
Adapting the missile to communicate in X-band in addition to S-band would allow 10 more ships to participate in Europe’s defense. The Netherlands and Germany have seven frigates that utilize SMART-L/APAR radar systems, and Denmark is adding three SMART-L/APAR ships to its fleet this year.
“A common datalink that operates with both X- and S-band radars is a very affordable, near-term solution that allows Europe to take advantage of proven technologies available today,” Kremer said.
Communicating in both S-band and X-band isn’t just a concern for European customers. The dual-band datalink means the U.S. Navy would not have to maintain separate stocks of Standard Missiles for the Zumwalt (X-band) and Aegis (S-band) ship classes.
The test follows a string of recent achievements for the SM-3 program, including a successful flight test using a remote cue from Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites and the opening of a state-of-the-art SM-3 missile factory in Huntsville, Ala.
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