Raytheon, in headlining the missile’s deployment, said the event marks the start of the second phase of the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach to countering ballistic missile threats.
"The SM-3 Block IB's completion of initial operational testing last year set the stage for a rapid deployment to theater," said Dr. Taylor W. Lawrence, president of Raytheon Missile Systems. "The SM-3's highly successful test performance gives combatant commanders around the world the confidence they need to counter the growing ballistic missile threat."
The Phased Adaptive Approach was announced in 2009 and is a new, more flexible approach to missile defense of both the U.S. and Europe. Phase 1 began in 2011 when the USS Monterey deployed carrying SM-3 Block IA missiles. And last year, ground was broken in Romania for the first operational Aegis Ashore site, which will use Standard Missile-3 variants to protect NATO countries from ballistic missile attack beginning next year.
The program, which involves the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, has so far completed 26 successful intercepts in space and more than 180 shipboard SM-3s have been delivered to the U.S. and Japan.
Raytheon says the Block IB variant of the missile features an enhanced two-color infrared seeker and upgraded steering and propulsion. It uses short bursts of precision power to maneuver toward its target. The SM-3 Block IIA, co-developed with Japan, will have a larger kinetic warhead.