AEGIS BMDS / SM-3 Missile

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Product Type:

Missile Defense System (Sea & Land)

Using Service (US):

JOINT - Missile Defense Agency (MDA)

Program Status:

In Production (SM-3 Block IB).

Prime Contractor:

AEGIS Weapon System: Lockheed Martin
SM-3 Missile: Raytheon Company

AEGIS Cruiser firing an SM-3 Missile

About the AEGIS BMD System:

AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) is the primary component of the sea-based element of the United States Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). The program is managed by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), and is building upon the existing U.S. Navy AEGIS weapons system and Standard Missile infrastructures. The AEGIS BMD System integrates the AN/SPY-1 radar, the Mk 41 Vertical Launching System, the RIM-161 SM-3 missile and the AEGIS BMD command and control system.

AEGIS BMD ships on Ballistic Missile Defense patrol - Ticonderoga Class cruisers (CG 47) and DDG 51 destroyers - detect and track ballistic missiles of all ranges, including Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM), and report tracking data to the BMDS. This tracking capability shares data to cue other missile defense sensors and provides fire control data to Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptors located at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and other elements of the BMDS including land-based firing units such as THAAD and the Patriot Missile System. Also, the AEGIS Combat System is able to obtain fire control data from the JLENS system.

AEGIS provides a forward-deployable, mobile capability to detect and track ballistic missiles of all ranges, and the ability to destroy short- medium-, intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and selected long-range class threats in the midcourse phase of flight. Spiral upgrades to both the AEGIS BMD Weapon System and the SM-3 configurations enable AEGIS BMD to provide effective, supportable defensive capability against more difficult threats, including Long-Range Ballistic Missiles, and expand the capability to counter limited engagements in the terminal phase of flight (the terminal phase is very short and begins once the missile reenters earth's atmosphere).

The Lockheed Martin AN/SPY-1 naval radar system is a key component of the AEGIS Combat System. The passive electronically scanned system is computer controlled and uses four complementary antennas to provide 360 degree coverage. The AN/SPY-1 has a range of more than 115 miles (185 km).

On October 25, 2012, the AEGIS BMDS, the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile, and THAAD (incl. two AN/TPY-2 radars) engaged in the first-ever test of all three systems working together.

About the SM-3 Missile:

The Raytheon RIM-161B SM-3 Block IA provides increased capability to engage short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles as compared to the SM-2 Block IV and SM-3 Block I. The SM-3 Block IA incorporates rocket motor upgrades and computer program modifications to improve sensor performance and missile guidance and control. SM-3 Block IA also comes at a lower cost. The MDA purchased the SM-3 Block IA missile until FY 2011.

The Raytheon RIM-161C SM-3 Block IB can be deployed both at sea and ashore and incorporates a two-color, all reflective infrared seeker, thus enabling longer range acquisition and increased threat discrimination. A Throttleable Divert Altitude Control System (TDACS) provides a more flexible and lower cost alternative to the Solid Divert Altitude Control System (SDACS). Currently, the MDA is only purchasing the SM-3 Block IB missile.

Raytheon and the MDA are currently developing and testing the SM-3 Block IIA missile, a joint program between the United States and Japan. The SM-3 Block IIA missile can be deployed both at sea and ashore and will increase the area that can be defended by the AEGIS BMD and increase the kill probability against a larger set of threats. The U.S. and Japan equally share both work and costs. Key SM-3 Block IIA technology improvements include an increase in velocity; an increase in range provided by a 21-inch diameter rocket motor propulsion stack; more than double the seeker sensitivity of the SM-3 Block IB; and increased divert capability incorporated in an advanced kinetic warhead. Key component technologies to be developed under the program include a lightweight nosecone, the advanced kinetic warhead, a 21-inch second stage rocket motor, and a 21-inch third stage rocket motor. The decision to begin production is anticipated in FY 2018 with initial contract award in FY 2019.

The MDA also planned to develop an SM-3 Block IIB "Next Generation AEGIS Missile." Development began in FY 2013 but has been put on hold / cancelled due to budget cuts.

SM-3 missiles (and SM-6 missiles) are assembled inside a 70,000 sq ft facility located at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

The Phased Adaptive Approach for Missile Defense in Europe:

The AEGIS BMD/SM-3 system also plays a key role in the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) for missile defense in Europe. Starting in Europe, the United States is executing a four phased approach to provide a more effective missile defense capability for defense of NATO territories and enhance U.S. homeland defense.

The Four Phases of PAA
Phase I (Complete): Focused on the protection against short and medium-range ballistic missiles. As part of phase I, the United States deployed multi-mission AEGIS ships with BMD capability and the SM-3 Block IA missile. Phase I also included establishing a separate forward-based AN/TPY-2 radar in Turkey.

Phase II (Complete): Deployed the first land-based BMD configuration (AEGIS Ashore) at Deveselu Air Base in Romania, and deployed the SM-3 Block IB on land at the AEGIS Ashore site and at sea on multi-mission AEGIS ships with BMD capability. The deployment provides ballistic missile coverage of Southern Europe.

Phase III (2018 timeframe): Deploys a second land-based AEGIS Ashore in Poland, and introduces the SM-3 Block IIA missile, which brings improved coverage against medium and intermediate range ballistic threats, and extends coverage to the bulk of the European continent.

Phase IV (2025-30 timeframe): Deploys another upgraded missile, the SM-3 Block IIB, to provide region-wide coverage as well as limited capabilities against potential ICBM threats.


The AEGIS BMD is delivering an enduring, operationally effective and supportable BMDS capability on AEGIS cruisers and destroyers to defend the United States, deployed forces, and allies and to incrementally increase this capability by delivering evolutionary incremental improvements in the form of BMDS upgrades.

FY 2020 & FY 2021 - DoD AEGIS BMD + SM-3 Program:

This data is available in Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, a comprehensive analytical database containing historical and forecast budget figures, year-to-year funding comparisons, congressional budget markups, program justification documents, and much more.

Sources Used: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Missile Defense Agency (MDA),
and Lockheed Martin Corp.

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