The U.S. Navy and Missile Defense Agency (MDA) completed the second successful intercept of a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) target by a Standard Missile-3 Block IIA (SM-3 Block IIA) interceptor missile.
On October 26, 2018, the target missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii. The USS John Finn (DDG-113), a Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, detected and tracked the target missile with its onboard AN/SPY-1 radar using the Aegis Baseline 9.C2 weapon system. Upon acquiring and tracking the target, the ship launched an SM-3 Block IIA guided missile which intercepted the target.
Based on observations and initial data review, the test, called the Flight Test Standard Missile-45 (FTM-45), met its objectives. Program officials will continue to evaluate system performance, said an MDA statement.
“This was a superb accomplishment and key milestone for the SM-3 Block IIA return to flight,” said MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves. “My congratulations to the entire team, including our sailors, industry partners, and allies who helped achieve this milestone.”
“This second intercept for the SM-3 Block IIA is a success we share with the Missile Defense Agency and the country of Japan, our cooperative development partners,” said Dr. Taylor W. Lawrence, president of Raytheon Missile Systems, the developer of the SM-3. “Together, we are building the most advanced solutions for ballistic missile defense.”
An SM-3 interceptor is a defensive weapon the U.S. Navy uses to destroy short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. 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.
SM-3 Block IIA, the next-gen variant, is being developed cooperatively by the U.S. and Japan and operates as part of the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense system. It defeats missile threats outside the earth’s atmosphere.
The 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. SM-3 is the only ballistic missile interceptor that can be launched at sea and on land.
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.
Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (Aegis BMD) is the naval component of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). The MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD program. The Missile Defense Agency’s mission is to develop and deploy a layered Ballistic Missile Defense System to defend the U.S., its deployed forces, allies and friends from ballistic missile attacks of all ranges in all phases of flight.