For the first time ever, Raytheon has begun enhancing Standard Missile-3 Block IBs with ‘threat upgrade’ software, giving the weapon’s kill vehicle the ability to hunt down more complicated, more lethal targets.
Though exact details are classified, the ability to make improvements through software upgrades means combatant commanders can get increased ballistic missile defense capabilities without the time and expense associated with traditional disassembly or hardware replacement.
"We’re proving it’s possible to significantly improve the SM-3 Block IB’s capability without having to go through the process of breaking apart the missile and then rebuilding again," Dr. Mitch Stevison, Standard Missile-3 senior program director. "Software updates are inherently less risky and extremely cost effective."
The Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Navy plan to test an SM-3 Block IB enhanced with the new software in 2015.
The SM-3 Block IB’s software updates were performed in Raytheon’s Tucson, Ariz., Space Factory. Final assembly of the SM-3 takes place at Raytheon’s Redstone Missile Integration Facility in Huntsville, Ala.
About the Standard Missile-3
SM-3s destroy incoming ballistic missile threats in space using nothing more than sheer impact, which is equivalent to a 10-ton truck traveling at 600 mph. The next-generation SM-3 Block IB incorporates an enhanced two-color infrared seeker and the Throttleable Divert and Attitude Control System, a mechanism that propels the missile toward incoming targets.
• More than 200 SM-3s have been delivered to the U.S. and Japan to date.
• SM-3 Block IB will be deployed ashore in 2015 in Romania.
• SM-3 Block IIA, co-developed with Japan, will have larger rocket motors and a bigger, more capable kinetic warhead. It’s on track for deployment at sea and ashore in 2018.