A Raytheon Co. advanced SM-3 interceptor missile failed to hit its target over the Pacific Ocean today in its first flight test, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said.
The Standard Missile-3 Block IB, part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system, was launched from the Navy cruiser USS Lake Erie early this morning, 90 seconds after a short-range ballistic missile target was launched from a range on Kauai, Hawaii.
“An intercept of the target was not achieved,” the Missile Defense Agency said in a written statement.
Today’s launch marked the first test flight for the advanced SM-3 Block IB. Defense officials will conduct an “extensive investigation” to determine the cause of the failure, the agency said.
There have been 22 successful intercepts in 27 at-sea attempts since the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense flight testing began in 2002, the agency said.
Missile Defense Agency spokesman Rick Lehner said it was too soon to say whether the test failure would delay the SM-3 program.
The Pentagon plans to buy more than 300 of the SM-3 Block IB missiles over the next five years, at a cost of $12 million to $15 million per missile, Lehner said.
John Patterson, a spokesman for Raytheon Missile Systems, declined to comment, referring questions to the Missile Defense Agency.
The Block IB batch of SM-3 missiles, still in development, will be an advanced version of the current Block IA production round, according to Raytheon’s website. The company said the new version “incorporates an upgraded seeker and signal processor, enabling longer range acquisition and increased threat discrimination.”
The Block IB missiles are scheduled to reach “initial operational capability” in fiscal year 2013 and be available for operations by 2015, Lehner said.
There are also plans to develop two more advanced versions of the SM-3, called the Block IIA and the Block IIB. The first Block IIA is scheduled for deployment in Europe by 2018 as both a sea-based and a land-based interceptor system, Lehner said. The Block IIB is scheduled for ground basing in Europe by 2020, he said.