Raytheon Co. selected Aerojet to complete development of the throttling divert and attitude control system (TDACS) for the Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block 2A interceptor being jointly funded by the United States and Japan.

The contract, the value of which was not disclosed, runs through 2016, and will be followed by a production award, Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet said in a Nov. 21 press release. The TDACS thruster system helps steer the SM-3’s kinetic kill vehicle as it homes in on its ballistic missile target.

Aerojet said it was competitively selected for the work but did not disclose the other participants in the earlier design phase of the effort. Other companies that have performed similar work on SM-3 variants are Alliant Techsystems Aerospace of Magna, Utah, and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif.

Aerojet supplies the TDACS system on the SM-3 Block 1B variant, now undergoing flight testing.

Michael Bright, vice president of missile defense and strategic systems for Aerojet, said being selected for full-scale development of the Block 2A TDACS does guarantee the company a production contract. Other companies will be eligible to bid for that work, he said.

“This technology is really a step ahead in the right direction,” Bright said in an interview. “Obviously our goal is to move from development right into production.”

The SM-3 is a cornerstone of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Aegis sea-based missile defense program, designed to engage intermediate-range missiles in mid flight. The SM-3 Block 1A is currently deployed on U.S. Navy ships; the Block 1B is in flight testing and the larger Block 2A and Block 2B variants, capable of addressing longer-range threats, are in development. Versions of these more capable SM-3 variants are slated for deployment on the ground in Europe in the coming years.

Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., is prime contractor on the SM-3 Block 1A and Block 1B, and is co-developing the Block 2A with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan. The new missile will have bigger  second- and third-stage rocket motors, as well as a larger warhead, to defend against more sophisticated threats.

The Missile Defense Agency recently awarded Raytheon an SM-3 Block 2A contract modification that with options is worth $241 million, the Pentagon announced Nov. 15. The work includes hardware fabrication and “divert and attitude control system mitigation” and brings the total value of Raytheon’s Block 2A development contract to $575.6 million, the Pentagon said.

Heather Uberuaga, a spokeswoman for Raytheon Missile Systems, did not return phone calls seeking additional details on the program.