March 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy has awarded Raytheon Missile Systems with a contract for production of the defensive Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.
The $97.7 million contract modification, announced Monday by the Department of Defense, is meant to cover long-lead material in support of low-rate initial production requirements for Block 2 of the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.
The ESSM is a joint collaborative effort between the Navy and 11 other NATO-member nations to upgrade the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow Missile. The ESSM, like the RIM-7, is used for ship defense, specifically against short-range anti-ship missiles.
First production of the Block 1 ESSM was delivered to the Navy in 2002, and the weapon has been in full operational use by the United States since 2004.
Development of the Block 2 ESSM started in 2014 utilizing the same propulsion section but increasing the diameter of the section to 10 inches. The increased size will include a dual seeker head that employs semi-active and active guidance.
Raytheon started transitioning to full production of the Block 2 ESSM in May 2018, and NATO successfully tested the missile in July 2018. The test included intercepting a BQM-74E drone, and was the first to use the Block 2's new active guidance seeker-head.
Work on the new contract will be performed in Canada, Massachusetts, Germany, Australia and several other locations around the United States and the world. The Navy has obligated $20.9 million from fiscal 2019 and 2018 weapons procurement and 2018 and 2017 other procurement funds, with $26,881 expiring at the end of the current fiscal year.
The Navy has scheduled the ESSM Block 2 for initial operating capacity in 2020.