One missile, many missions

Standard Missile-6, built for anti-air warfare, sinks target ship in test

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An SM-6 missile launches from the deck of USS John Paul Jones during a test in June 2014. Recent testing has shown SM-6, which was built for anti-air warfare, can also be used against ships at sea. (Photo: U.S. Navy) (Download high-resolution photo)

Raytheon's Standard Missile-6, already deployed in anti-air warfare and as an interceptor for ballistic missiles at sea, has now proven effective against targets on the ocean's surface.

In a test off the coast of Hawaii, an SM-6 missile engaged and sunk its first-ever surface target – the decommissioned guided missile frigate USS Reuben James. That test demonstrated SM-6's capability in anti-surface warfare.

The test comes as the U.S. Navy strives for what it calls "distributed lethality," or the ability to strike from any ship and from any location. That requires using ships in dispersed formations to counter threats from missiles, aircraft, submarines and surface ships.

"In order to have more power in more places, the Navy is increasing the offensive might of the surface force," said Dr. Mitch Stevison, vice president of Raytheon Air and Missile Defense.

Data gathered from the test will be assessed to examine how the missile and supporting systems work together. Ultimately, the Navy will use the information to make recommendations for the development of future systems and standards.

"The SM-6 is a very capable missile," Stevison said. "One missile with one hardware configuration performs all three missions." 

In separate tests, the missile, which is deployed on cruisers and destroyers, broke its previous distance record for engaging a target by demonstrating both maximum down-range and maximum cross-range intercepts.

"The missile was put through its paces and exceeded all expectations during rigorous and complex multiple target scenarios," said Mike Campisi, Raytheon Missile Systems' senior SM-6 program director.

The missile destroyed five targets in "over-the-horizon, engage-on-remote" missions. Those tests, in part, confirmed SM-6's ability to engage threats beyond the sight of operators on the ship, using its own radar.

"Now, through pairing it with real-time sensors, SM-6 no longer relies on the ship to provide targeting data," Campisi said. "The missile activates its own radar to engage targets."

The USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53), configured with the advanced Aegis Baseline 9.C1, executed the distance-breaking missions as part of final testing that will likely lead to full operational capability in 2017.

The SM-6 “Dual-1” missile successfully engaged a ballistic missile target in its terminal phase for the third time in August 2017. It was first tested in a successful flight test mission in August 2015, and then again in late 2016. The “Dual 1” is part of the Missile Defense Agency’s Sea-Based Terminal program, which protects against ballistic missiles in their final, or terminal, phase of flight. It also includes anti-air warfare – combat against airborne threats such as helicopters, planes, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles.

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Standard Missile-6 Multi-mission Test

SM-6 is the only missile in the world that can perform both anti-air warfare and terminal ballistic missile defense from sea. Now it is adding anti-surface warfare to its repertoire.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Navy awarded Raytheon $235 million for continued SM-6 production, marking the fourth year of full-rate production for the multi-mission missile.

SM-6, first deployed in 2013, is a key component of the U.S. Navy’s Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air mission. Raytheon has delivered more than 400 missiles to date, with many years of production on the horizon. SM-6 is currently deployable on 60 surface combatants in the fleet.

Last Updated: 06/14/2018