Land-based launcher fires Navy's Standard Missile-3
Key step taken toward interceptor's European deployment
The U.S. Navy fired a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3®) from a land-based launcher last May, a key test as the United States moves toward deploying the interceptor in Romania to protect Europe from ballistic missile attacks.
The SM-3 roared into the sky from an Aegis Ashore test site located at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.
The test did not involve a target and was designed to answer one question: Can an SM-3 be launched from a land-based combat weapon system as well as it can from sea?
The answer was a resounding yes.
“There are few differences between launching Standard Missile-3 from a ship versus land-based systems,” said Wes Kremer, vice president of Air and Missile Defense Systems. “It’s the same missile whether sea- or land-based. This provides defense planners and the warfighter with incredible flexibility to address the whole gamut of threats and geographic limitations.”
That familiarity will be reassuring as sailors are set to embark upon new assignments in Romania this year when the first land-based SM-3 site becomes operational.
“Romania’s Aegis Ashore site will complement other U.S. Navy ships already in the area carrying SM-3s,” said Dr. Mitch Stevison, senior director of the SM-3 program. “Not only will more of Europe be covered, but the coverage that currently exists will be more robust.”
Both the land- and sea-based SM-3s are designed to protect Europe from ballistic missile attack as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).
The Phased Adaptive Approach's first phase began in 2011 with the deployment of the USS Monterey off the coast of Europe carrying the first-generation SM-3 Block IA. The program's second phase began early in 2014 with the sea-based deployment of the next generation SM-3 Block IB.
Like the sea version, the Aegis Ashore site will have a vertical launch system capable of carrying SM-3 missiles. The SM-3 Block IB is slated for the 2015 Romanian site, while the SM-3 Block IIA is on track for a 2018 deployment in the second land-based site in Poland.
The SM-3 Block IIA is a larger missile being developed jointly by Raytheon and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. It goes farther and takes out threats sooner, making it a ballistic missile defense “game changer” according to Stevison.
The Poland site will provide additional coverage for northern Europe. During a trip to Poland last year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed on-going plans, reaffirming the U.S.’s commitment to deploying this missile defense site in 2018.