The US Navy, in collaboration with the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), has deployed Raytheon's second-generation Standard Missile-3 Block IB for the first time, marking the beginning of the second phase of the phased adaptive approach.
This comes in the wake of the completion of the PAA phase I that started in 2011, when SM-3 Block IAs was deployed aboard USS Monterey.
Raytheon Missile Systems president Dr Taylor Lawrence said that the SM-3 Block IB's completion of initial operational testing last year set the stage for a rapid deployment to theatre.
"The SM-3's highly successful test performance gives combatant commanders around the world the confidence they need to counter the growing ballistic missile threat," Lawrence said.
Capable of destroying incoming ballistic missile threats in space through the use of sheer impact, SM-3 was included in missile defences of both the US and in Europe in 2009.
Raytheon Standard Missile-3 programme director Dr Mitch Stevison said: "The SM-3 programme's evolution speaks to the importance of harnessing past successes to deliver increasingly capable systems to our customers, while reducing costs and delivery timelines."
Construction on the first operational Aegis Ashore site started in Romania last October, and could be able to launch SM-3 Block IAs, IBs and IIAs.
On course for deployment as part of PAA phase II in 2015, the Aegis Ashore site, together with Aegis ballistic missile defence ships, will be able to offer further ballistic missile coverage to Nato nations.
Furthermore, the first Ashore trial with the SM-3 Block IB and upgraded Aegis BMD weapons system will be conducted this year at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.
Co-developed with Japanese partners, Raytheon's SM-3 Block IIA will feature 21in second and third stage rocket motors, in addition to a larger, more capable kinetic warhead B.
The SM-3 programme has completed 26 space intercepts, with 180 SM-3s being delivered to the US and Japan.
Image: Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 1B guided missile is launched from the USS Lake Erie. Photo: courtesy of MDA.