MON US correspondent Marty Kauchak provides updates on the SM-3 programme direct from the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, AL.
The SM-3 Block IIA interceptor missile is the next-generation SM-3 missile family member, capable of defending large areas from ballistic missiles. The Block IIA variant can be deployed in Romania and Poland (at AEGIS ASHORE sites) as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) for missile defence, or at sea, in AEGIS DDGs in order to meet US Department of Defense (DoD) requirements.
In the last quarter of 2018, SM-3 Blk IIA completed two key exo-atmospheric intercepts, Flight Test Standard Missile (FTM)-45 in October, and Flight Test Integrated (FTI)-03 in December. The first SM-3 Blk IIA was launched from the USS JOHN FINN (DDG 113) and the second from the AEGIS ASHORE test facility at the Pacific Missile Test Range. “The tests not only highlighted the SM-3 Blk IIA’s sea/land flexibility, but also demonstrated the first engage-on-remote capability, that used an off-board sensor to detect and provide target information to the SM-3 Blk IIA launched remotely from AEGIS ASHORE,” stated Senior Director for Strategic and Missile Defense Systems at Raytheon Missile Systems, Roy L Donelson.
A future flight test (FTM-44) is being scheduled that will further validate the missile’s capability in broader tactical applications. The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) did not respond to a request for a specific test date or test window for this event.
Worthy of note is the fact that the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor is a product of a cooperative partnership between the governments of the US and Japan, with Raytheon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries being the respective industry leads. “Approximately 50% of the SM-3 Blk IIA is produced in Japan, with key components such as the second and third stage rocket motors and nose cones being developed and produced in Japan,” Mr Doneslon observed.
While DoD declined to respond to a request to provide the number of SM-3 Block IIAs funded in its programme of record, the Trump administration’s 2019 budget request for AEGIS ballistic missile defence (BMD) included the decision to procure six additional SM-3 IIA interceptors in fiscal year 2019, in addition to the funding for 16 SM-3 IIAs from the FY 2018 emergency supplemental budget.
Other key programme milestones within the next 24 months include Japan being scheduled to take initial delivery of SM-3 Blk IIAs, which will be deployed on Japan Maritime Self Defense Force BMD AEGIS ships, of which two are new 27DDG-class destroyers. SM-3 Block IIA fielding is certain to further expand in that nation, following the US State Department’s approval this January of two Japanese AEGIS ASHORE sites.