The United States and Japan have conducted the first flight test of a new version of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3 Block IIA).
This new missile interceptor is designed to extend the reach of current AEGIS Ballistic Missile defense systems deployed on naval ships and ashore. It is being developed jointly by the two countries at a combined cost of $2 billion. When deployed, the new missile will extend the defensive capability of AEGIS BMD systems to intercept intermediate-range ballistic missiles (missiles capable of attacking targets at ranges of up to 5,500 km.). The current SM-3 Block IB can only engage short- and medium-range ballistic missiles (with attack ranges of up to 3,000 km.).
Saturday’s test evaluated the performance of the missile’s nose cone, steering control, booster separation, and the performance of second- and third-stage propulsion. “The success of this test keeps the program on track for a 2018 deployment at sea and ashore,” said Taylor Lawrence, president of Raytheon’s missile systems section.[ismember]
The missile will be used to equip the third phase of the European Missile Defense System, when deployed with AEGIS on-shore sites in Romania and Poland, and on naval vessels stationed in the Mediterranean. The new weapon will also be deployed on naval vessels at sea, particularly with the US fleet in the Pacific Ocean, where Japan is also expected to field the missiles on its four Kongo- Class AEGIS destroyers (currently armed with SM-3 Block IA anti-ballistic missiles).
Although the new missile is compatible with the same VL-41 launcher used by the current missile, the SM-3 Block IIA has a much larger diameter – 21 inches (53 cm.), as compared with 13.5 inches (34 cm.) for the current missile. The larger diameter allows more volume for propellant, and a larger kill vehicle, equipped with high divert and attitude control systems. The new missile also has a larger clamshell nose cone and KV, which can accommodate a seeker with increased aperture – contributing to a longer flight range and duration, higher velocity and improved target detection and recognition from longer distances. These will allow the missile to engage threats sooner and protect larger areas from short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats.
This test, designated SM-3 Block IIA Cooperative Development Controlled Test Vehicle-01, was the first live fire of the SM-3 Block IIA. The missile successfully demonstrated fly-out through nosecone deployment and third stage flight. No intercept was planned, and no target missile was launched. Program officials will evaluate system performance based on telemetry and other data obtained during the test.[/ismember]
The flight test, from the Point Mugu Sea Range, San Nicolas Island, California, was performed by The Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI), Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MOD), and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), in cooperation with the U.S. Navy.