A missile made by Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems intercepted an intermediate-range ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean early Friday in a key test of the Obama administration's planned European missile shield.
The test shot was the first flight test of a Standard Missile-3 Block IA against an intermediate-range missile, and it also showed the missile's ability to hit a ballistic-missile target when "launched on remote" - using a forward-based radar also made by Raytheon.
"The launch-on-remote capability is incredibly important because it extends the essential defended footprint of the ship," Frank Wyatt, Raytheon vice president of air- and missile-defense systems, said in prepared remarks.
"By using a remote sensor, we are extending how far the ship can 'see,' and actually enabling the ship to launch the SM-3 long before it picks up an organic track" on the missile, Wyatt said.
The company said the test certified the first phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach. Under that plan, the U.S. is deploying the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system and its SM-3 missiles, with a land-based version still under development, to protect Europe.
As part of the first phase of that program, a U.S. Navy cruiser equipped with SM-3 Block IA missiles sailed to the Mediterranean Sea last month.
Friday's test was the 21st successful intercept in 25 attempts for the Aegis system since flight testing began in 2002, the Missile Defense Agency said.
During the test at about 7 p.m. Marshall Island Time (about midnight Arizona time) a ballistic missile target was launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshalls. The target was detected and tracked by a forward-based AN/TPY-2 X-band radar, made by Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, located on Wake Island.
The target information was relayed via a control center in Hawaii to the Aegis-equipped destroyer USS O'Kane, which forwarded targeting information to the SM-3 and launched the interceptor, the MDA said. The SM-3 Block IA engaged the target and deployed its non-explosive warhead, which steered into the target's path and destroyed it in a "hit-to-kill" intercept.
Besides the forward-based radar, operators at the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command in Hawaii received targeting data from sources including two demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites, the MDA said.
Raytheon has delivered more than 130 SM-3s to date for use by the U.S. and Japanese navies.
DID YOU KNOW
Raytheon Missile Systems is Southern Arizona's largest employer with 10,500 full-time-equivalent employees at the start of this year, the Star 200 survey shows.
Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at email@example.com or 573-4181.