Last Updated: 06/28/2013*
A flash of light and a deafening roar broke the quiet of a sunny afternoon in the Pacific Ocean as a Standard Missile-3 IB blasted from the deck of a U.S. Navy ship and streaked skyward to knock out a ballistic missile target.
But this May 16 test wasn’t just a milestone for the United States. The Raytheon-built interceptor will soon be stationed in Europe, part of a missile defense partnership that is expanding around the world.
Military planners are recognizing that a joint defense is the best way to counter missiles that can fly over dozens of countries in minutes. Tighter budgets also mean countries want the same, proven weapons systems that their allies are using.
“These programs make affordable the development and deployment of real capability through burden-sharing that might otherwise not be possible due to economic constraints,” said John Rood, Raytheon’s vice president of business development.
In recent months Raytheon and the U.S. military have conducted a string of tests as part of efforts to expand missile defense globally.
They include the May test, in which the SM-3 Block IB knocked out a complex, separating ballistic missile target. The United States plans to deploy land-based SM-3 Block IBs in Europe to help defend NATO regions against ballistic missiles.
Raytheon is also developing a dual-bank datalink that could one day allow European X-band radars to communicate with the Standard Missile-3, potentially enabling more European ships to participate in missile defense. The datalink successfully communicated with a Thales Nederland Advanced Phased Array Radar in March.
Analysts say broadening missile defense assets to other countries is key to ensuring global security.
“Missile defense, in particular, is an area where partnering and integration are absolutely vital,” said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a Washington-based think tank. “You want the allies to have these systems; you want the allies to be your first line of intelligence, information and defense.”
Last year the U.S. Missile Defense agency awarded Raytheon a $925 million contract to continue developing its Standard Missile-3 Block IIA, a joint program with Japan.
Another cooperative venture with the United Arab Emirates has resulted in nearly $400 million in improvements to the Patriot air and missile defense system, which is used by the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Taiwan, Greece, Spain, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates.
The U.S. military's draw-down in the Middle East has led countries in that region to look at ways to provide their own defense against missiles and airborne attacks, said Tom Kennedy, Raytheon’s chief operating officer.
“Air defense is usually a top priority in every country in the region,” Kennedy said. “With U.S. withdrawal and an increase in regional threats, Middle East countries are realizing that air defense is key to insuring against economic threats and protecting strategic assets that are powering development.”
Sharing these kinds of defensive systems achieves more than just military aims – it also plays a role in diplomacy, said Jeff Kueter, president of the Marshall Institute.
“It’s critically important to work with friends and allies to expand the capabilities of our missile defense system,” Kueter said. “Linking U.S. defense assets with foreign defense assets tightens the links between those countries, strengthens our alliances, strengthens the friendships and encourages likeminded nations to look at problems in a similar fashion.”
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