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Success in First SM-3 Block IIA Intercept Test


The U.S. Navy, Missile Defense Agency, and Japanese Ministry of Defense carried out a successful intercept of a ballistic missile target with an SM-3 Block IIA missile Feb. 3.

USS John Paul Jones (DDG 52) detected and tracked a medium-range ballistic missile target launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii, and then fired a single SM-3 Block IIA missile. The SM-3 successfully destroyed the target.

As well as being a next-generation of sea-based missile defense for the United States and Japan, the Block IIA variant is planned to be the next stage of the European missile defense system.

“Today’s test demonstrates a critical milestone in the cooperative development of the SM-3 Block IIA missile,” said MDA Director Vice Adm. Jim Syring in a Missile Defense Agency news release. “The missile, developed jointly by a Japanese and U.S. government and industry team, is vitally important to both our nations and will ultimately improve our ability to defend against increasing ballistic missile threats around the world.”

sm-3 block iia test vertical

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD), and U.S. Navy sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) successfully conducted a flight test Feb. 3 (Hawaii Standard Time), resulting in the first intercept of a ballistic missile target using the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA off the west coast of Hawaii. U.S. Navy photo by Leah Garton

The John Paul Jones is equipped with the AN/SPY-1D(V) radar and the upgraded Aegis Baseline 9.C2 weapon system. The flight test, designated SM-3 Block IIA Cooperative Development (SCD) Project Flight Test, Standard Missile (SFTM)-01, was the third flight test of the SM-3 Block IIA guided missile, two prior test flights having launched from land. It was the first intercept test, the first time an SM-3IIA was launched from an Aegis ship, and the first intercept engagement using the Aegis Baseline 9.C2 (BMD 5.1) weapon system.

“The SM-3 Block IIA program continues to reflect MDA’s commitment to maturing this regional ballistic missile defense capability for the defense of our nation, its deployed forces and our allies abroad,” said Dr. Taylor W. Lawrence, Raytheon Missile Systems president, in a company news release. “This test success keeps the program on track for deployment at sea and ashore in the 2018 timeframe, building on Raytheon’s unequalled fifteen-year history of exo-atmospheric intercepts.”

The SM-3 Block IIA is a next-generation “big brother” to the existing SM-3 missile. It is a larger diameter missile than earlier SM-3 blocks, with larger rocket motors that will allow it to defend broader areas from ballistic missile threats, and a larger kinetic warhead. The kinetic warhead also has improved search, discrimination, acquisition and tracking functions.

More flight tests will be carried out before a 2018 deployment at sea and in support of the European Phased Adaptive Approach Phase 3. The program is on track for 2018 deployment at sea and on land in Poland.