U.S. Approves Possible Sale of 21 Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 1B/2A Interceptor Missiles to Japan

The U.S. State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of eight Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 1B Missiles and 13 Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 2A Missiles to Japan for an estimated cost of $561 million.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on November 16, 2018.

The Government of Japan has requested to buy eight Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 1B Missiles and 13 Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 2A Missiles. Also included are SM-3 1B and 2A missile canisters, U.S. Government and contractor provided technical assistance, engineering and logistical support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support.

The DSCA said in a statement that this proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a major ally that is a force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region. The statement added that it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Japan in developing and maintaining a strong and effective self-defense capability.

The proposed sale will provide Japan with an increased Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) capability to assist in defending the Japanese homeland and U.S. personnel stationed there. The DSCA statement added that Japan will have no difficulty absorbing these additional munitions and support into the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF).

The principal contractor for the SM-3 Block 1B and 2A All Up Rounds will be Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Arizona. The prime contractor for the Mk-21 and Mk-29 canisters and PHS&T kits will be BAE Systems, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) is a ship-based missile system used to intercept short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles as a part of Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (Aegis BMD).

Although primarily designed as an anti-ballistic missile (ABM), the SM-3 has also been employed in an anti-satellite capacity against a satellite at the lower end of low Earth orbit (LEO).

The interceptor uses sheer force, rather than an explosive warhead, to destroy its target. Its “kill vehicle” hits threats with the force of a 10-ton truck traveling 600 mph. This technique, referred to as “hit-to-kill,” has been likened to intercepting a bullet with another bullet.

The SM-3 is primarily used and tested by the U.S. Navy and also operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).

SM-3 Block IB Interceptor

In 2014, the Block IB variant was successfully launched for the first time from an Aegis Ashore testing site in Hawaii. Later in the year, the missile destroyed a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) target during a highly complex integrated air and missile defense exercise in the Pacific Ocean.

The SM-3 Block IB interceptor has an enhanced two-color infrared seeker and upgraded steering and propulsion capability that uses short bursts of precision propulsion to direct the missile toward incoming targets. It became operational in 2014, deploying for the first time on U.S. Navy ships worldwide.

SM-3 Block IIA Interceptor

The next-generation SM-3 Block IIA interceptor is being developed and produced in cooperation with Japanese industry and will be deployable on land as well as at sea.

Block IIA has two distinct new features: larger rocket motors that will allow it to defend broader areas from ballistic missile threats and a larger kinetic warhead. The interceptor’s kinetic warhead has been enhanced, improving the search, discrimination, acquisition and tracking functions, to address advanced and emerging threats.

The SM-3 IIA missile intercepted an advanced ballistic missile threat in its first live target test in early 2017. The flawless intercept was preceded by two successful non-target flight tests.

The Block IIA variant is the centerpiece of the European missile defense system. It will be deployed ashore in Poland to complete Phase 3 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).

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