The Navy’s first test of the advanced Standard Missile 3 Block 1B failed during a flight yesterday when the interceptor failed to hit its target over the Pacific Ocean, the Missile Defense Agency said.
The short range ballistic missile target took off from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii at 9:53 a.m. EDT. Ninety seconds later, the Ticonderoga-class USS Lake Erie (CG-70), employing the Lockheed Martin [LMT]-built Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system, launched the SM-3, but was unable to strike the target, MDA said.
MDA plans to conduct an extensive investigation. There is no timeframe completing the investigation, but it will likely take months to pore through all of the data, agency spokesman Richard Lehner said. The test marked a rare failure for the sea-based system, which has been successful in 22 out of 27 flights since 2002, including the destruction of malfunctioning U.S. satellite in February 2008.
The Raytheon [RTN]-built SM-3 Block 1B was designed to be an upgrade over the SM-1 Block 1A, which has already been deployed. The Block 1B has a two-color seeker to enhance the target picture, while the Block 1A has a one-color seeker, Lehner said.
Sea-based missile defense is a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s approach the European missile defense. The NATO-endorsed European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) was announced by President Barack Obama in 2009, when he scrapped Bush administration-era plans to base long-range interceptors in Eastern Europe.
The Block 1A was first deployed to the region as part of EPAA earlier this year aboard the USS Monterey (CG-61). The Block 1B is scheduled to be fielded under EPAA in 2015, Lehner said. The Block 1B will be installed on the ground in Romania in what has been called Aegis Ashore.
The Navy earlier this year reopened the competition for building the Aegis system. Raytheon is challenging incumbent Lockheed Martin for the contract. Both sides are to submit their proposals in November.
The Navy has awarded a combined $127 million contract to Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing [BA] to begin development of the next generation of SM-3 Block IIB interceptors that could be deployed under EPAA as early as 2020.