The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has awarded a $466.9m contract for the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB interceptors used by the navy to destroy short-to-intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Raytheon has been contracted by the US agency to manufacture, test and deliver 44 units of the SM-3 Block IB interceptors to the US Navy.

The defensive weapon system features a two-colour infrared seeker in addition to upgraded steering and propulsion capability that directs the missile toward incoming targets, destroying them on impact in space.

Raytheon Air and Missile Defense Systems vice-president Dr Mitch Stevison said: “SM-3 plays a critical role in the missile defence of the US and its allies.

“During the exercise, the interceptor successfully destroyed a medium-range ballistic missile target at sea.”

“The missile’s deployment on land and at sea makes it invaluable to upper-tier missile defence in Europe and for US naval forces.”

Production will be carried out at Raytheon Space Factory in Tucson, Arizona, US, while integration of the interceptor is due to be performed at the company’s integration facility in Huntsville, Alabama.

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Recently, the Block IB variant of the weapon was tested by Raytheon off the coast of Scotland as part of the Nato-supported Formidable Shield 17 military multinational operational exercise.

During the exercise, the interceptor successfully destroyed a medium-range ballistic missile target at sea.

Using the hit-to-kill technique, Raytheon’s SM-3 interceptor deploys strong forces to destroy its target.

In 2014, the SM-3 Block IB interceptor was successfully launched for the first time from an Aegis Ashore testing site in Hawaii, US.

In the same year, the weapon system became operational after being deployed for the first time on US Navy vessels.