Partners in Defense

Ships from different nations share communications to test a Raytheon missile

Raytheon SM-3

A Raytheon SM-3 takes flight to intercept a threat in this rendering.

In October 2015, naval vessels from nine nations gathered in the Hebrides test range off Scotland's north coast. A simulated ballistic missile streaked through space. The destroyer USS Ross tracked the incoming target, preparing to intercept it with a Raytheon SM-3® guided missile.

The SM-3 soared away from the deck of the ship, powered up beyond Earth's atmosphere, found the target, and rammed it with the force of a 10-ton truck traveling 600 mph — enough to shatter the incoming missile with no explosives needed.

It was the first time Raytheon's iconic SM-3 had flown outside the U.S. test range, and the first interception of a ballistic missile threat in Europe.

But a successful test is just the start of this story. "What's really exciting are the implications for regional defense," says Amy Cohen, program director for the SM-3 missile.

Bringing nations together

For the first time ever, multinational ships taking part in a real-life simulation were communicating on a single network. And as the USS Ross tracked the incoming threat, a Dutch ship tracked it as well, relaying target and firing data.

At the close of the test, analysis showed that the USS Ross could have used the Dutch ship's target and firing data to successfully intercept the threat.

"We're talking about foreign ships working in concert for regional defense," says Cohen. "That can free up U.S. ship resources because other countries can support the defense. This is something NATO has requested, and it was a big step."

The Hebrides test was just one of the important global partnerships for the SM-3 in 2015. We've worked with Japan to develop a larger SM-3 that can defend broader areas. We've also developed a land-based launch system soon to be deployed in Romania and Poland.

"Protecting nations from threats," says Cohen, "is a responsibility we take seriously."

Published On: 04/24/2016
Last Updated: 12/15/2017