SM-3 AEGIS ABM System Faces Cutbacks
The USA is adapting the Standard air-defence missile for anti-ballistic missile (ABM) use via the Standard Missile-3. These interceptors have managed to hit their targets in five out of six recent tests, and their naval mobility makes them well suited for forward defense in and around high threat areas like Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.
Land-based ABMs, on the other hand, have had a more mixed record. Yet DefenseTech.org reports that cuts may lie ahead for the SM-3 ABM program.
The SM-3 (Standard Missile 3), designated RIM-161A, is the missile component of the U.S. Navy’s forthcoming theater-wide ballistic missile defense system, called NTW-TBMD (Navy Theater Wide – Theater Ballistic Missile Defense). It is an upper-tier ballistic missile, using an additional rocket booster and modifications to the AEGIS radar and fire control system in order to boost its capabilities.
The SM-3 missile uses the basic SM-2ER Block IV A airframe and propulsion, and adds a third stage rocket motor (a.k.a. Advanced Solid Axial Stage, ASAS, made by Alliant Techsystems), a GPS/INS guidance section (a.k.a. GAINS, GPS-Aided Inertial Navigation System), and a LEAP (Lightweight Exo-Atmospheric Projectile) kinetic warhead (i.e. a non-explosive hit-to-kill warhead). The launching ships will be updated with Aegis LEAP Intercept (ALI) computer soft- and hardware.
Nevertheless, DefenseTech.org reports that the sea-based interceptors have been slated for a $95 million cut in the new budget. That could keep a key signal processor from coming on line, which might “set back the whole program at least a year,” said Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing (MS Word transcript).
DefenseTech discusses the cuts and implications, including the question of the SM-3’s ability to reliably intercept threat missiles with separating warheads.