The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has successfully completed testing of an improved Raytheon-built Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB third-stage rocket motor.
During the testing, two SM-3 Block IBs were launched from the USS Hopper at the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. Target intercepts were not included in the testing.
Raytheon Air and Missile Defense vice-president Dr Mitch Stevison said: "Raytheon is continually working to increase the overall reliability of the highly dependable SM-3, reflecting the MDA's commitment to mature this capability for the defence of our nation, deployed forces, and our allies.
"SM-3 continues to demonstrate its versatility and reliability, providing an extraordinary level of protection from sea or land."
The test validated in-flight performance of the upgrade has already passed ground testing. The upgrade will be integrated into the current missile production line.
The SM-3 has the ability to destroy incoming ballistic missile threats in space using sheer impact, equivalent to a 10t truck travelling at 600mph, according to Raytheon.
The SM-3 Block IB, when deployed at sea and ashore, uses short bursts of precision propulsion to direct the missile towards incoming targets.
To date, more than 250 SM-3s have been delivered.
SM-3 Block IIA is on track for deployment at sea and ashore in Poland in 2018.
Image: During the testing, two SM-3 Block IBs were launched from the USS Hopper. Photo: courtesy of Raytheon Company.