WASHINGTON — A new missile interceptor co-developed by the United States and Japan is scheduled to make its first flight test this year and its first attempted intercept during the summer of 2016, according to executives from Raytheon Missile Systems, the main U.S. contractor on the effort.

The Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block 2A interceptor, developed under an agreement signed in 2006, is a bigger and more capable version of the Raytheon-built SM-3 Block 1A and 1B interceptors, part of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system. Designed for deployment on ships or on land, the Block 2A features second and third stages that are wider, at 53 centimeters, than those on the current SM-3 variants, giving it the range and velocity needed to engage intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Meanwhile, Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Arizona, is expecting an MDA decision on full-rate production of the SM-3 Block 1B this spring, said Wes Kremer, the company’s vice president of air and missile defense systems.

In October 2013, the MDA announced its intent to award Raytheon a sole-source contract worth as much as $3 billion for SM-3 Block 1B production. That decision came shortly after an intercept test that MDA officials described as the Block 1B’s fifth consecutive success.


Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.