Home » Aviation » VIDEO: Navy SM-3 Block IIA Scores in Ballistic Missile Test


VIDEO: Navy SM-3 Block IIA Scores in Ballistic Missile Test

The following is a U.S. Navy video of an SM-3 Block IIA missile test this week from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii.

Statement From the Missile Defense Agency:

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and U.S. Navy sailors manning the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex (AAMDTC) at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) at Kauai, Hawaii, successfully conducted Flight Test Integrated-03 (FTI-03). This was an operational live fire test demonstrating the Aegis Weapon System Engage On Remote capability to track and intercept an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) target with an Aegis Ashore-launched Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor.

FTI-03 consisted of an IRBM target, air-launched by a U.S. Air Force C-17 from the broad ocean area thousands of miles southwest of the Aegis Ashore Test site that launched the SM-3 Block IIA Interceptor. The engagement leveraged a ground, air and space-based sensor/command and control architecture linked by the Ballistic Missile Defense System’s Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) suite.

  • Ed L

    Have they tested against a icbm mirv bus ?

    • sferrin

      No.

      • Ed L

        What would that take as far as the number To shoot at a MIRV configuration

        • Ser Arthur Dayne

          I read a book (actually a few) by an outstanding author, former submarine officer, I think a LCDR & SSBN XO … Anyway his first book deals with an unauthorized (actually purposeful) full-load Trident SLBM launch. A very interesting point was made- and I learned a lot- after every single engagement of a target (whatever it is, short-range ballistic missile, medium-range, ICBM, etc.) the odds of success on the next text skyrocket. Because the missile gets destroyed into a whole jamble of stuff- let alone the actual interceptor’s jamble of stuff– and it makes the radar/sensor picture basically alphabet soup. This is not even counting the penetration aids that advanced MRBMs and of course ICBMs employ — making the radar picture even more confused — so a MIRV situation is as tough as it gets. The book made it seem like, *even if* we used all the resources we had to take out an advanced, Soviet-style MIRV/ICBM, it’s *extremely* unlikely we could take out a second, let alone the rest of the salvo. Each one just makes it more and more statistically impossible. *PLUS*, right now with SM-3s, the Aegis DDG/CGs need to be in very specific patrol boxes in order to intercept missiles headed to very specific areas. Anyway the book is called The Trident Deception, check it out, it gives much better details and explanations than I could.

          • Ed L

            I just picked that up from the Library. Getting ready to start reading it. Being retired, I have the opportunity of getting more reading done between my daily swims, yard work, working the the boat (weather permitting) watching old movies. don’t forget going to the Mall and hanging out with all the single grandmothers

          • Ser Arthur Dayne

            Roger that brotherman, enjoy the retirement and those hot singles at the Mall! it’s a very good book btw, he has a series, all connected, and it’s outstanding. Some of the best military knowledge and tactics/technology/procedures stuff since Tom Clancy, huge fan.

          • NavySubNuke

            He’s not wrong but a lot depends on the resolution of the radar in question. We have radars now that can tell the difference between an RV and a balloon for example. We can also tell the difference between an intact RV and the pieces of one.
            Additionally, the problem he cites is only a problem during the exo-atmospheric portion of the flight. Once the RV reenters the atmosphere all that junk is stripped away and burned up so a terminal system like THAAD won’t be subject to the same issues.
            The other big factor that plays in all phases is EMP. If you set off one of your warheads really really early you can blind them. Then let the next one come in a little farther…. and do it again. It is an expensive option but considering how limited current defenses are it is still effective.

          • Duane

            The latest missile defense radars, which are still in development, are actually able to provide resolution down to a few inches at detection ranges of hundreds of miles … that would be the AMDR, or AN-SPY-6 and the LRDR (used in both AEGIS Ashore in Japan, and in the GBI interceptor system in Alaska). These are capable of discriminating between reentry vehicles, i.e., to identify real warheads vs. dummies.

            LRDR goes IOC next year, and AMDR in FY-2023.

          • Ser Arthur Dayne

            Yeah I mean I don’t know what I’m talking about so I’m sure I did not explain it correctly. The book has it down pretty good. (Plus it of course went into the combination of Aegis BMD & THAAD etc. I believe we in the USA have a 3rd layer known as Ground-Based Midcourse Defense? but it’s a silo-based big-ace rocket so it’s not mobile or transportable to theaters etc.) — Anyway just was trying to make a general point, I’m no engineer in the least.

          • NavySubNuke

            Yes – GMD is in Alaska and is the only system, at least right now, that is intended to shoot down ICBMs/SLBMs.

    • Last I saw, the plan is to test it against an ICBM sometime late 2019.

    • NavySubNuke

      No – and it won’t be. It doesn’t have the range or velocity to take out out an ICBM. It is only for use against IRBMs.

      • Duane

        SM-3 Block IIA has plenty of range (2,500 km) and speed (Mach 15+) to engage an ICBM in boost phase, and likely in reentry phase too … just not at apogee. An interceptor does not need to travel faster than the target (it doesn’t chase it down from the rear) – it just has to accurately target and hit the target. Hitting a bullet with a bullet.

        • NavySubNuke

          Boost phase interception with a surface launched counter-missile…. LOL.

          • Duane

            With instantaneous detection (using space based sensors and F-35s), a Mach 15+ SM-3 Block IIA is actually a viable boost phase interceptor as long as it is fired from somewhere downrange of the IRBM .. as would be the case of a NK launched IRBM headed for Japan or Guam.

          • NavySubNuke

            Sure — all we have to do is figure out how to not only instantaneously detect a launching missile (rather than being limited to pesky sensors limited by our current understanding of physics like radar and spaced based infrared), instantaneously determine the course of that missile (as opposed to our current limitations where it takes measurable seconds to figure out which way the missile is even flying), instantaneously communicate that instantaneously gained data through our instantaneous data-link (where we are again currently limited by that pesky physics thing) to our shooter who can then instantaneously, since he has all the information needed so he is in the exact perfect position with the ship in a condition to instantaneously respond, fire the interceptor and take out the offending missile less than 3-5 minutes after we detected it instantaneously at take-off.
            It certainly **seems** plausible all right….

          • Duane

            IR space based sensors have long been “figured out”. In boost phase an ICBM makes a huge IR target.

            F-35s with their airborne AESA radars and Distributed Appurture System (DAS) and electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) sensors have already been tested in detecting and transmitting targeting data for BM missile launches in boost phase, such that MDA and DOD have already concluded that F-35s make excellent ICBM boost phase sensors for launches relatively close to international airspace – as is the case with any NK ICBM launch. For launches from far inland in China or Siberia, airborne sensors are not feasible.

          • NavySubNuke

            “such that MDA and DOD have already concluded that F-35s make excellent ICBM boost phase sensors for launches relatively close to international airspace – as is the case with any NK ICBM launch.
            LOL. It really is amazing the kind of stuff you come out with despite it having no actual basis in reality.
            Oh and none of what you posted has anything to do with my actual post pointing out why boost phase interception of an ICBM with an SM-3 is utterly laughable.

          • There is a great video out there showing an F-35 using DAS to track multiple rocket launches. Combine that with the well published tests where F-35’s fed info into NIFC-CA and it is pretty clear the capability is possible.

          • NavySubNuke

            There is a world of difference between “MDA and DOD have already concluded that F-35s make excellent ICBM boost phase ” and something being **possible**.
            It is possible to win powerball after all but that doesn’t mean that MDA and DOD have concluded that powerball makes an excellent way of raising money for example.
            And no matter how soon the F35 detects it the ship won’t have time to react and fire an interceptor that can nail it in boost phase — boost phase lasts about 3 minutes from lift off to third stage burnout with an ICBM. The ship won’t even have launched by then 99% of the time.

      • USNVO

        Since Disqus ate my last response.

        While the faster target from an ICBM limits the defended footprint of the SM-3, it does not preclude it from intercepting an ICBM. After all, the missile has to come down, it just is travelling faster. As long as you have the software to get the kill vehicle in the right basket, it doesn’t matter to the kill vehicle. For that matter, with the right software and favorable geometry (footprint would be very small), a PAC-3 Patriot would have a shot at an ICBM.

        Raytheon says they can do it with some software/firmware changes. MDA says they can probably do it. The FY18 Defense Budget required the MDA to test the SM-3 Blk IIA against a simple (no countermeasures) ICBM by 2020. Clearly someone thinks it is possible.

        There was an excellent summation of the issues on a blog called Mostly Missile Defense this last June. Worth a read.

  • RobM1981

    Am I reading/watching this wrong, or was the target basically stationary? It appears as if it is an IRBM-SIZED target, suspended in the air. Not a hypersonic IRBM warhead. isn’t that whole “hypersonic” part the real challenge?

    We’ve been shooting slow-moving, highly reflective targets down for a while now. I’m not sure what this test proves, other than SAMs make pretty fireworks at night.

    • NavySubNuke

      You are watching it wrong… the target warhead was in motion just as the SM-3 KKV was in motion. It is all just a matter of perspective and the location of the camera that made the video in relation to the two objects.

    • USNVO

      The camera was tracking the target, so it appears stationary. How stationary do you think it is if it just flew several thousand miles? And there is no such thing as a “hypersonic IRBM”, that would be a contradiction in terms. A IRBM flies out of the atmosphere on a ballistic trajectory (where the target was intercepted), a “hypersonic” missile is a Mach 5+ aerodynamic missile that is either gliding after a rocket boost or is an air breather. In any event, it is inside the earth’s atmosphere.

      • Duane

        Yup – No sound in space

  • Bob

    This wasn’t an IRBM but a target missile that has been used for years. Even the smaller THAAD has shot one down as it reaches just 100 miles apogee, not the 300 miles needed to hit an IRBM or ICBM. The SM-3 lacks the range to hit those, but billions are pocketed in this pretend game.

    July 2006 – A team composed of the 412th Test Wing, DARPA, and AirLaunch LLC broke records for the largest single object to be dropped from a C-17 as a full-scale simulated AirLaunch QuickReach rocket weighing 72,000 pounds was dropped as part of the joint DARPA/Air Force Falcon Small Launch Vehicle Program. The team broke their own record set just over a month ago when a simulated QuickReach rocket that weighed 65,000 pounds was dropped out of a C-17 on June 14. The video is from the actual mission and shows the Falcon SLV being loaded and launched from the C-17.

    • Duane

      No, actually the SM-3 Block IIA missile has plenty of range and speed to engage an IRBM – 2,500 km range and Mach 15. Not a pretend game.

    • USNVO

      Come on, if you are going to come up with some conspiracy theory, you should at least come up with something that can’t be disproved with a few minutes of Google-Fu.

      While the Short Range Air-Launched Target (SRALT) is launched from a C-17 (also a C-130), it uses a single parachute for deployment. It also doesn’t look like the target in the video (feel free to look it up, there has been a few changes in air launched targets since 2006). The SRALT -RV can also reach a apogee of 180nm but I digress. It also doesn’t have the range to fly anywhere near the distance claimed but, since it wasn’t a SRALT, that really doesn’t matter.

      On the other hand, an Extended Long Range Air Launch Target (E-LRALT), designed to simulate a MRBM or IRBM target set and first launched in FY15, is way larger and uses three parachutes for deployment and, get this, actually looks like the target you see in the video! Who would have thought!

      Finally, there is no reason to actually intercept an IRBM at apogee when you can just as easily shoot it down after apogee when it is coming back down. Especially if you have an AEGIS ABM system that is not a mid-course interceptor. Unless you think the IRBM comes down vertically on the target. You don’t actually believe that do you?

  • thebard3

    This test is just one in a series of ever-increasing capability for the system. They have experienced successes and failures, as should be expected with any new complex system. The system is nowhere near fully operational, and probably won’t be for a number of years.

    • Andy Ferguson

      Your experience in these systems, is…..?

  • Chesapeakeguy

    I was reading up on this missile after reading this article. It’s speed is given as just over Mach 15. Yet I don’t see any mention of it being ‘hypersonic’. ‘Hypersonic’ is described as being within the speed spectrum of Mach 5.0 to 10.0, with speeds above that being listed as ‘high-hypersonic’. Well, Mach 15 certainly is in that realm. Is there any logical explanation as to why this is NOT considered a hypersonic vehicle? Or IS IT, and the available info just doesn’t use that term?

    • thebard3

      I can’t find any specific data from the test, but the SM-3 Mach 15 rating is ‘exo-atmospheric’, and I believe this intercept occurred at a lower altitude, so the missile would probably be traveling closer to mach 10. No idea how fast the target was moving. The most specific description of the test I’ve found is on the Johns Hopkins APL website. The intercept involved space based assets, army assets on Wake island, command and control at european installations and the Aegis Ashore installation in Hawaii. The integration between systems is impressive.

    • Almost all large rockets are technically hypersonic. However, the term is generally used to denote weapons capable of maneuvering at that speed within the atmosphere.

  • USNVO

    Well, better effort still has way to many holes, but keep working on it, you are getting better.

    Nice MIC reference, but you need to add “that Eisenhower warned us about in there”. That, and it is kind of hard to equate a professor at Cornell as part of the MIC. Maybe it is being ghosted by someone in the industry. And come on, not even a hint of revolving door, everyone wants a job at Boeing or Raytheon, dig at MDA? Amateurish!

    Wait a minute, you really do believe IRBMs and ICBMs comes down vertically? Sure, if they are not going very far, but anywhere near their max range, they are in the atmosphere for well over a minute. So if you are going to make up numbers clearly not even close to reality, quote some “expert” who already made up for you.

    Good misdirection on the range of the AEGIS radar, but anyone reading the paragraph as opposed to just to just watching the cool video knows it was a demonstration of “engage on remote” capability. And harping on the intercept height from years ago like it somehow applies to the much larger Block IIA which started testing in 2017 really kills your cred. And where are the arguments about vulnerable Sattelite links and lack of conveniently based sensors to provide tracking? It is like you are not even trying!

    Need to step up that game!

  • USNVO

    Oh, and get your information straight. The test you referenced engaged an IRBM AND a cruise missile to demonstrate Baseline 9 capability, not a cruise missile IRBM. Intermediate Range BALLISTIC MISSILE should have been a give away you were reading it wrong.

    • Bob

      By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: February 17, 2018

      HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — Rocket science, it should come as no surprise, is not easy or cheap. That was most recently demonstrated Jan. 31 off Kauai when a Raytheon SM-3 Block IIA missile failed to intercept an air-dropped intermediate-range target missile.

      The over-the-horizon Raytheon/Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile, a long-range, precision strike weapon that can destroy enemy ships at distances up to 115 miles, flies at sea-skimming altitude, uses an advanced seeker for targeting and costs about $1.5 million, according to
      published reports.

      David Wright, co-director and senior scientist with the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the three-stage SM-3 IIA is significantly larger and faster than the Naval Strike Missile.

      • USNVO

        OK, this is better. Nice selective editing but since with a little work you can find the original article (I had to go through Hawaii Free Press to get past the paywall at the Star Advertiser), it still can be easily debunked. But better.

        First, the original article was much longer than your snippet. It actually did a pretty good cost analysis of the Jan 31, 2018 test failure of the SM-3 Block IIA. It accurately described the target missile as a two stage, air dropped rocket simulating an IRBM. This was most likely an E-LRALT. While it didn’t talk about the cause of the SM-3, we now know it was a failure of the third stage to ignite.

        Second, the whole discussion about the NSM was a comparison of why the SM-3 Block IIA cost so much (bigger, faster, more expensive seekers, etc). Not sure why they picked an NSM, an anti-ship cruise missile not even in US Service yet, instead of something more SM-3 like, say an anti-air SM-6 but that was what they chose. The article never claims the NSM was the target and clearly indicated an air-dropped, two stage IRBM target.

        Good selective editing on your part, and several of the news services that ran parts of the star advertiser story butchered it pretty bad, but the article really doesn’t say what you think it says. But better.