Missile Defense

Missile Defense

Mission: Global Defense

Ballistic missiles have become a serious threat to international security.

Missiles are fast, traveling up to 15,000 mph. They can cover long distances, with the most advanced missiles reaching into space and traveling over the North Pole to hit targets. Because they are expensive and can carry only small payloads, rogue countries are more likely to outfit them with weapons of mass destruction.

Countries must be able to detect a missile launch, track an incoming missile or warhead, and then intercept it.

The United States and its allies have developed several overlapping systems to stop missile attacks. Raytheon plays a major role in almost every one of them.

Raytheon's proven interceptors, radars and space sensors work together to provide protection against ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft and other threats. We are, quite simply, the most trusted global partner in missile defense.


Stopping a missile attack begins with detecting a launch.

Working together, Raytheon systems provide detailed information about a missile’s type, trajectory and possible target. They can also differentiate between a warhead and other objects. They include:


The United States and its allies use overlapping layers of long-range, mid-range and short-range interceptors to shoot down missiles and incoming warheads at a variety of altitudes

  • Aegis: This system is carried on warships and as a land-based version in Europe. It fires the Raytheon-built Standard Missile family of interceptors, including:
    • The SM-3 interceptor, which releases a small, non-explosive “kill vehicle” that smashes into warheads in space. Raytheon is also developing advanced versions of the SM-3, known as the IB and IIA variants. The IIA is a joint project with Japan.
    • The SM-6 interceptor, a multi-mission missile with an active seeker. It can defend against cruise missiles, along with ballistic missiles in the last phase of their flight.
  • Ground-based Midcourse Defense: This system uses large, powerful Ground-Based Interceptor missiles launched from underground silos in Alaska and California. The interceptors carry Raytheon’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, which uses sensors and small thrusters to slam itself into warheads. GBIs can reach targets at the highest point in their arc in space, known as the mid-course phase of flight.
  • Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD): This land-based system is designed to shoot down threats as they descend from outer space into the upper atmosphere. The system includes the Raytheon-built AN/TPY-2 radar, which detects attacks and guides interceptors to their targets.
  • Patriot™: This lower-tier system is used by 14 countries. A proposed radar upgrade adds a 360-degree view powered by gallium nitride technology. Patriot includes the following interceptor:
  • National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System: NASAMS is a short-range air defense system that can fire three different Raytheon missiles: the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), the AMRAAM air-to-air missile and the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile.
  • Iron Dome: This short-range air defense system uses small missiles to provide protection against rockets, artillery and mortars. Raytheon is working toward production of a U.S. version of Iron Dome called the SkyHunter missile that could someday defend forward-deployed American forces.

Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) Intercept

Missile Defense Agency video of an SM-6 missile intercepting a ballistic missile target at sea.

How It Works: Detecting a North Korean Missile Strike on Guam

Learn more about how missile defense technology could respond to ballistic missile threats.

Missile Defense Radar 101

Learn how different radars work together to enable a layered missile defense.

Missile Defense in the News

Raytheon may have a quick fix for Seoul's vulnerability to North Korean attack (Forbes)

Raytheon interceptors down four missiles in NATO exercise (Arizona Daily Star)

SM-3 Block IB intercept test, key to full-rate production decision, set for NATO exercise (Inside Defense)

Raytheon to restart SM-2 missile line after $650 million sale: executive (Reuters)

Raytheon's Huntsville-made SM-3, SM-6 missiles take center stage at Paris Air Show (Huntsville Times)

Interceptor 'completely obliterated' mock missile, Pentagon says (Bloomberg)

Missile takedown: Historic ICBM intercept test sends strong message to North Korea (Defense News)

Missile test puts Raytheon’s Kill Vehicle and Boeing’s Shield together to pulverize enemy ICBMs (FOX Business)

Raytheon wins $59.6M for multi-warhead interceptor (Arizona Daily Star)

Raytheon to supply Multi-Object Kill Vehicle technology (UPI)

Israel's David's Sling missile system to be operational in weeks (UPI)

The sky is [not] the limit: the evolution of the Standard Missile (The Cipher Brief)

Missile Defense Resources

VIDEO: Cooperating with Japan on Missile Defense

MDAA U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Overview

Missile Defense project: information and analyses on threats


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