Successful SM-3 Test To Inform Production Decision

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WASHINGTON — A Raytheon-built Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block 1B interceptor successfully destroyed a separating, short-range target missile May 15 in a test over the Pacific Ocean that the company said will inform an upcoming production decision on the program.

In separate press releases, Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., and the U.S. Department of Defense said the sea-based interceptor destroyed the separating mock warhead via impact. “Initial indications are that all components performed as designed, officials said, and program officials will assess and evaluate system performance based on telemetry and other data obtained during the test,” the Pentagon said.

It was the third consecutive successful intercept of the SM-3 Block 1B and its Lockheed Martin-built Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense 4.0 fire control system, the Pentagon said.

The SM-3 Block 1B, one of two variants of the SM-3 interceptor family still in development — the Block 1A is deployed and operational aboard U.S. Navy ships — failed in a September 2011 test, prompting concern that the program was being put into production prematurely. The U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended deferring full-rate production of the Block 1B pending completion of a third straight intercept test, and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency concurred with that recommendation.

Raytheon said the test was carried out against a sophisticated target under challenging, wartime conditions, and that the resulting data will be used to support the upcoming production decision on the program. “Today was the third successful test of Raytheon’s next-generation SM-3, and it should give us all great assurance in our nation’s ability to take on a wide range of ballistic missile threats,” Taylor Lawrence, president of Raytheon Missile Systems, said in a prepared statement.

The SM-3 Block 1B used in the test was launched from the U.S.S. Lake Erie and destroyed a target launched from Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The interceptor maneuvered toward its target based on guidance from the shipboard Aegis system and then released its kinetic kill vehicle, which acquired the “target re-entry vehicle” and destroyed it via collision in space.

Designed to intercept short- to intermediate-range missiles, SM-3 Block 1B features a two-color seeker and a throttleable divert and attitude control system that propels the kill vehicle to its target, Raytheon said.