Raytheon’s SM-3 missile is about to bring operators a step change in capability with the prospect of flight testing commencing in October this year, Dr. J Mitch Stevison, Vice President Air and Missile Defense Systems for Raytheon Missile Systems told MT at Farnborough 2016 this week.
The Block 1A iteration of the S-3 is already, “the prevalent exoatmospheric missile defence system in naval service in the US and Japan,” according to Stevison, and its proven kinetic effector is, “the only way to be 100% confident of a kill event in space,” he said. Over 130 Block 1A missiles have already been deployed and the Block IB system, which provides significant upgrades in target discrimination and data processing capabilities, will shortly be starting deliveries to the US Navy. The land-based AEGIS facilities in Romania (and shortly in Poland) are already slated for Block 1B missiles and the Polish facility will be an early recipient of the Block 2A.
A co-development between the US and Japan to address specific operational requirements, SM-3 Block 2A provides a step change in capability, particularly from the perspective of territorial defence, according to Stevison. “With a Block 1A or B system you could provide coverage for an area the size of New York State: with a Block 2A missile, you could defend more or less the entire eastern seaboard of the United States,” he explained.
The challenges of providing adequate target identification, location, tracking and discrimination in the vacuum of space have been well understood and mastered throughout the development programme, in Stevison’s view. “We have more than 25 missions in space under our belt to date, with a success rate in excess of 80%,” he observed.