Second-generation Standard Missile-3 Block IB

Raytheon has begun updating its Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IBs with new threat upgrade software, in a bid to enhance its lethal capability against advanced threats.

With the improvement, combatant commanders will benefit from increased ballistic missile defence capabilities, reducing the time and expense associated with traditional disassembly or hardware replacement.

Raytheon SM-3 senior programme director Dr Mitch Stevison said: "We’re proving it’s possible to significantly improve the SM-3 Block IB’s capability without having to go through the process of breaking apart the missile and then rebuilding again.

"Software updates are inherently less risky and extremely cost-effective."

The SM-3 is capable of destroying incoming ballistic missile threats in space with an impact equivalent to a 10t truck travelling at 600mph.

"Software updates are inherently less risky and extremely cost-effective."

The Block IB includes an enhanced two-colour infrared seeker and the Throttleable Divert and Attitude Control System, which is a mechanism that propels the missile toward incoming targets.

Upgrades are taking place at Raytheon’s Space Factory in Tucson, Arizona, US, with final assembly of the missile to be held at the company’s Redstone Missile Integration Facility in Huntsville, Alaska, US.

The US Navy and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) are planning to test an upgraded SM-3 Block IB this year.

To date, more than 200 SM-3s have been delivered to the US and Japan to date. Block IB will also be deployed ashore in Romania this year.

Image: Raytheon’s second-generation Standard Missile-3 Block IB during firing. Photo: courtesy of MDA.