A direct hit

Next-gen missile defense interceptor scores a win in latest test

SM-3 IIA flight test (FTM-45)

A target missile was launched from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii on Oct. 26, 2018. Raytheon’s newest variant of the Standard Missile-3 obliterated the target in this second successful intercept flight test. (Photo: Missile Defense Agency)

The newest, largest version of Raytheon's Standard Missile-3 interceptor destroyed a target in space in the latest test of this sophisticated missile defense technology.

Launched from the USS John Finn (DDG-113), an SM-3 Block IIA eliminated a land-launched target resembling an advanced ballistic missile. The SM-3 traveled at speeds of thousands of miles an hour into space, identified and knocked out the target missile. 

The SM-3 Block IIA is purely defensive; it does not carry explosives. Instead, the interceptor's kinetic warhead demolishes its targets by sheer impact. It is the product of a cooperative partnership between the U.S. and Japan.

“Whether you fire SM-3 from sea or land, the result is the same; threat ballistic missiles are neutralized before they can ever harm anyone,” said Dr. Mitch Stevison, Raytheon Air and Missile Defense Systems vice president. “It’s not easy, but we are constantly evolving this proven capability to provide the strongest possible shield of protection for the U.S. and its allies.”

The SM-3 Block IIA is bigger than the earlier IA or IB variants. Because the Block IIA is faster than its predecessors and can defend a wider area, allied nations are now evaluating it for their homeland defense needs.

“Raytheon and Japanese engineers have designed an eye-watering capability into the SM-3 IIA,” said Roy Donelson, SM-3 program senior director. “It has a larger rocket motor and more advanced kinetic warhead, giving it a homeland defense capability, if desired.”

The SM-3 IIA missile intercepted an advanced ballistic missile threat in its first live target test in early 2017. The success of this most recent flight test helps pave the way for the missile to move from development to production. 

This next-generation SM-3 will be carried by U.S. Navy and Japanese ships - and the Aegis Ashore land site in Poland, once it becomes operational. The Poland site, along with the already active Aegis Ashore site in Romania, will provide missile defense protection for all of Europe, according to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

Raytheon produces missiles, kill vehicles, radars, and space sensors for missile defense. These systems work together to protect against ballistic missile attacks.

Last Updated: 10/26/2018