WALTHAM, Mass., Nov. 4 (UPI) -- The SM-3 Block IIA missile being co-developed by Raytheon and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is moving from the design phase to the build phase.
The new variant of the Standard Missile 3, which will destroy incoming ballistic missiles by colliding with them in space, has completed its critical design phase, which verified the missile design's meeting operational performance requirements, Raytheon said.
"This milestone is critical because it moves the SM-3 Block IIA program from design to build," said Dr. Taylor W. Lawrence, president of Raytheon Missile Systems. "Once deployed, SM-3 Block IIA will provide the U.S. and Japan [with] capability to defend larger geographic areas from longer-range ballistic missile threats."
Raytheon said that as part of the development effort system hardware was built early so that critical sub-systems could be tested before the critical design review to eliminate possible system integration problems.
The tests of the sub-systems took place over an 18-month period in cooperation with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
The Block IIA missile features 21-inch, 2nd and 3rd stage rocket motors, a larger, more capable kinetic warhead and can be used by land forces as well as naval forces. SM-3s are used by the U.S. Navy and Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force.
First flight testing of the new missile variant will begin in 2015.