A missile made by Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems destroyed a ballistic missile in a test primarily using targeting data from space satellites, the company said today.
During the test off Hawaii at about 2 a.m. Arizona time today, a Standard Missile-3 Block IA fired from the Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie destroyed a medium-range ballistic missile target launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility off Hawaii.
The interceptor was guided mainly by tracking data from a remote Raytheon-made sensor payload on two Space Tracking and Surveillance System-Demonstrator (STSS-D) satellites, the company said.
The so-called “launch on remote” test used the satellite sensors to detect the target early on. The ship’s crew fired the SM-3 based on satellite tracking data and before the ship’s radar detected the target, Raytheon said.
Using the satellite data expands the effective operational range of the SM-3, part of the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, and allows for earlier detection and elimination of threats, Mitch Stevison, director of Raytheon’s SM-3 program, said on a conference call.
The test marked the 22nd successful intercept by an SM-3, Stevison said.
The “launch on remote” concept was first demonstrated during testing in April 2011 when a U.S. Navy destroyer used track data provided by a Raytheon-made radar deployed on Wake Island to detect and destroy an intermediate-range ballistic missile target with an SM-3 Block IA.
Today’s test also was the first successful intercept by an SM-3 Block IA missile since a similar missile missed its target during a first-of-its-kind, multiple-system test last October.
A Missile Defense Agency review board is still investigating the cause of that failure, Stevison said, but Tuesday’s test represented an important step in overcoming that misstep.
The MDA plans another multi-system intercept test later this year, according to agency documents.