Aerospace & Defense

The SM-3 Block IIA by the Numbers: The Missile That Failed a Test to Protect the US Against North Korea

A ballistic missile defense test conducted Wednesday off the coast of Hawaii failed when the land-based interceptor missile failed to hit its target. The Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block IIA missile that missed its target is made by Raytheon Corp. (NYSE: RTN) as part of the Aegis Ashore missile defense system and is the second failure in less than a year of a system intended, among other things, to defend against potential North Korean missile launches.

The first phase of the SM-3 interceptor was the ship-based Aegis system that was deployed in 2011. The second phase added land-based launches using the SM-3 Block IB interceptor. The third phase, currently being tested, increases both the velocity and the range of the Aegis system.

U.S. Missile Defense Agency Mark Wright offered a comment that did not mention the failed test:

The Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy sailors manning the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex (AAMDTC) conducted a live-fire missile flight test using a Standard-Missile (SM)-3 Block IIA missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii, Wednesday morning.

According to CNN, the silence about the test results is due “to sensitivities surrounding North Korea’s participation in the upcoming Olympic Games and continuing tensions with leader Kim Jong-un.

In a test of the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor conducted last July, a sailor responsible for maintaining encrypted data exchanges between ships and aircraft mistakenly identified the incoming target as a friendly aircraft. That caused the missile to self-destruct according to a report in Defense News.

According to Raytheon, the SM-3 Block IIA missile is being developed in cooperation with Japan. Both the United States and Japan are seeking weapons to neutralize the growing threat from North Korea.

The SM-3 Block IIA missile is also the “centerpiece of the European missile defense system” and is on track for deployment on both land and sea in Poland this year according to Raytheon.