The U.S. Navy moved another step closer yesterday to developing a Navy Theater Wide (NTW) capability with a successful flight test of the newly developed Standard Missile-3 (SM-3). The Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie conducted the Aegis Light Exo-Atmospheric Projectile (LEAP) Intercept Flight Test Round (FTR-1A) mission in the mid-Pacific using the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii.
Equipped with Aegis LEAP Intercept (ALI) computer programs and hardware, Lake Erie launched a SM-3 missile demonstrating third stage airframe stability and control through nominal kinetic warhead fourth stage separation. The SM-3 is the Navy's new exo-atmospheric missile developed to counter theater ballistic missile (TBM) threats outside the atmosphere. The primary mission of the Navy Theater Wide Ballistic Missile Defense system is to provide defense in depth from the threat of TBM attack for U.S. and allied forces overseas, including vital areas, critical military assets, population centers and large geographic regions.
Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (ACNO) for Missile Defense, Rear Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, deemed the FTR-1A test "a major positive event" in the ALI program. "It's time to deliver what we've promised on the test range," Rempt said. "The engineering data we'll derive from this test will definitely move us along the SM-3 path to intercept."
The FTR-1A mission flew a guided trajectory within the range safety boundaries. The test was strictly an evaluation of SM-3 airframe stability and control through nominal warhead separation. A target was launched to verify launch procedures for future firings; to verify Aegis Weapon System fire control data and tracking performance; and to collect engineering data from the missile, including the kinetic warhead infrared seeker, all in preparation for follow-on flight missions. Program engineers will analyze the data and incorporate changes based on their findings, as required.
Yesterday's test was the third in a planned series of nine test flights. The ALI Project's ground test program has already conducted significant testing of elements of the SM-3 missile. The ALI project, a part of the Navy Theater Wide Ballistic Missile Defense program, builds upon the well-proven SM-2 missile family and the Aegis Weapon System, including its vertical launch capability. In conjunction with the Area TBMD Program, the SM-2 Block IVA missile maintains the capabilities of earlier variants of the SM-2 missile while adding a capability against short to medium range TBMs. Both Aegis and other variants of the SM-2 missile are currently at sea in more than fifty Aegis cruisers and destroyers, with more than 25 ships in the production/planning pipeline.
The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization is the sponsor of the Navy Theater Wide capability. The Navy's ACNO (Missile Defense) is the Navy lead on requirements and related matters. The program executive officer for Theater Surface Combatants manages the development of the NTW Program. Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., is the prime contractor for the development and production of the SM-3 missile. Lockheed Martin Naval Electronic and Surveillance systems manufactures the Aegis Weapon System installed onboard Aegis cruisers and destroyers and is also the prime contractor for the Vertical Launch System.