Raytheon has proposed that 10 European warships be equipped with the company’s standard SM-3 missile, so that the burden of providing a missile defense shield over Europe can be shared more equally among the NATO countries. The alliance has crafted a Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) to extending the shield, so that it covers the entire European continent. But the U.S. is providing the only system that can currently perform the exo-atmospheric interception of incoming missiles required to defend an entire region. That system is the Aegis onboard U.S. Navy warships, which fires the SM-3 Block 1A.
Wes Kramer, vice president for air and missile defense, said that Raytheon had invested its own funds over the past 18 months to add an X-band datalink to the SM-3’s existing S-band datalink. This enables guidance of the SM-3 by the Smart-L or Active Phased Array Radars (APARs) carried by the 10 European warships–three German F124 frigates, three Danish patrol vessels and four Dutch ADCF frigates.
The SM-3 missile fits in the Mk41 launchers that are carried by all these warships, Kramer said. He noted that a further 15 European warships are capable of ballistic missile defense. They are the five Spanish Aegis destroyers, six British Type 45 destroyers, and four Horizon-class frigates operated by France and Italy (two each). European missile house MBDA has ambitions to equip at least the Horizon and Type 45 warships with a ballistic missile defense capability, by adapting the Aster missiles that they already carry.
Kramer said that the SM-3 is the most widely tested exo-atmospheric kill vehicle, despite a recent failed flight of the latest Block 1B. This version is slated for ground-based deployment in Romania from 2015 in the second phase of the PAA. The company has invested in a new factory at Huntsville that can produce up to eight SM-3s per month. Kramer said that in addition to Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain, Australia and Korea are also interested in acquiring the SM-3.