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RIM-161 SM-3
USS Lake Erie (CG-70) SM-3 start.jpg
A RIM-161 Standard Missile (SM-3) is launched from the Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie
Type Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System
Place of origin  United States
Production history
Manufacturer Raytheon, Aerojet
Unit cost $9.5 million[1]
Length 6.55 m (21 ft 6 in)
Diameter 0.34 m (13.5 in)

Warhead Lightweight Exo-Atmospheric Projectile (LEAP) kinetic warhead

Wingspan 1.57 m (62 in)
Propellant Stage1: MK 72 Booster, solid-fuel, Aerojet
Stage2: MK 104 Dual Thrust Rocket Motor (DTRM), solid-fuel, Aerojet
Stage3: MK 136 Third Stage Rocket Motor (TSRM), solid-fuel, ATK
Stage4: Solid Divert and Attitude Control System (SDACS), ATK
>500 km (270 nautical miles)
Flight ceiling >250 km (150 miles)
GPS/INS/semi-active radar homing/passive LWIR seeker (KW)

The RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) is a ship based anti-ballistic missile used by the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. Although primarily designed as an anti-ballistic missile, the SM-3 has also been employed in an anti-satellite capacity against a satellite at the lower end of Low Earth orbit.[2] The SM-3 is primarily used and tested by the United States Navy and also operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and in the future by the Royal Netherlands Navy.



The SM-3 evolved from the proven SM-2 Block IV design. The SM-3 uses the same booster and dual thrust rocket motor as the Block IV missile for the first and second stages and the same steering control section and midcourse missile guidance for maneuvering in the atmosphere. To support the extended range of an exo-atmospheric intercept, additional missile thrust is provided in a new third stage for the SM-3 missile, containing a dual pulse rocket motor for the early exo-atmospheric phase of flight.[3]


The ship's AN/SPY-1 radar finds the ballistic missile target and the Aegis weapon system calculates a solution on the target. When the missile is ordered to launch, the Aerojet MK 72 solid-fuel rocket booster launches the SM-3 out of the ship's Mark 41 vertical launching system (VLS). The missile then establishes communication with the launching ship. Once the booster burns out, it detaches, and the Aerojet MK 104 solid-fuel dual thrust rocket motor (DTRM) takes over propulsion through the atmosphere. The missile continues to receive mid-course guidance information from the launching ship and is aided by GPS data. The ATK MK 136 solid-fueled third stage rocket motor (TSRM) fires after the second stage burns out, and it takes the missile above the atmosphere (if needed). The TSRM is pulse fired and provides propulsion for the SM-3 until 30 seconds to intercept. At that point the third stage separates, and the Lightweight Exo-Atmospheric Projectile (LEAP) kinetic warhead (KW) begins to search for the target using pointing data from the launching ship. The ATK solid divert and attitude control system (SDACS) allows the kinetic warhead to maneuver in the final phase of the engagement. The KW's sensors identify the target, attempt to identify the most lethal part of the target and steers the KW to that point. If the KW intercepts the target, it provides 130 megajoules (96,000,000 ft·lbf, 31 kg TNT equivalent) of kinetic energy at the point of impact.[4]

Use by various nations


In December 2007, Japan conducted a successful test of an SM-3 block IA aboard JDS Kongo against a ballistic missile. This was the first time a Japanese ship was employed to launch the interceptor missile during a test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. In previous tests the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force had provided tracking and communications [5][6].

United States

Missile defense

In September 2009, President Obama announced plans to scrap plans for missile defense sites in East Europe, in favor of missile defense systems located on US Navy warships.[7] On 18 September 2009, Russian Prime Minister Putin welcomed Obama's plans for missile defense which may include stationing American Aegis armed warships in the Black Sea.[8][9] This deployment began to occur that same month, with the deployment of Aegis-equipped warships with the RIM-161 SM-3 missile system, which complements the Patriot systems already deployed by American units.[10][11]

The SM-3 has shown some of the best results of any anti-missile system used by the US.[12]


On February 14, 2008, U.S. officials announced plans to use a modified SM-3 missile launched from a group of three ships in the North Pacific to destroy the failed American satellite USA 193 at an altitude of 130 nautical miles (240 kilometers) shortly before atmospheric reentry, stating that the intention was to "reduce the danger to human beings" due to the release of toxic hydrazine fuel carried onboard.[13][14] A spokesperson stated that software associated with the SM-3 had been modified to enhance the chances of the missile's sensors recognizing that the satellite was its target, since the missile was not designed for ASAT operations.

On February 21, 2008 at 3:26 am (UTC) the USS Lake Erie, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, fired a single SM-3 missile, hit and successfully destroyed the satellite, with a closing velocity of about 22,783 mph (36,667 km/h) while the satellite was 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) above the Pacific Ocean.[15][16] USS Decatur, USS Russell as well as other land, air, sea and space-based sensors were involved in the operation.[17][18]


The United States plans to station mobile land-based SM-3s in Central Europe starting in 2015.[19]


According to Defense Industry Daily, Israel is considering ordering a land based SM-3 system. While Israel currently uses the Arrow system, and the Patriot system, the country is looking for further protection. [20]


The SM-3 Block IA version provides an incremental upgrade to improve reliability and maintainability at a reduced cost. The SM-3 Block IB, due in 2010, offers upgrades which include an advanced two-color infrared seeker, and a 10-thruster solid throttling divert and attitude control system (TDACS/SDACS) on the kill vehicle to give it improved capability against maneuvering ballistic missiles or warheads. Solid TDACS is a joint Raytheon/Aerojet project, but Boeing supplies some components of the kinetic warhead. With Block IB and associated ship-based upgrades, the Navy gains the ability to defend against medium range missiles and some Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles. SM-3 Block II will widen the missile body to 21” and decrease the size of the maneuvering fins. It will still fit in Mk41 vertical launch systems, and the missile will be faster and have longer range. The SM-3 Block IIA will add a larger diameter kill vehicle that is more maneuverable, and carries another sensor/ discrimination upgrade. It’s currently scheduled to debut around 2015, whereupon the Navy will have a weapon that can engage some Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.[21]

Standard Missile Three [22] Anti-Ballistic Missile Comments:
RIM-161A SM-3 Block I, Development Version
RIM-161B SM-3 Block IA 1 Color Seeker, Solid Divert Attitude Control System (SDACS)
None to date SM-3 Block IB 2 Color IIR Seeker and Throttleable Divert Attitude Control System (TDACS) Passed critical design review on 13 July 2009.[23]
None to date SM-3 Block IIA Long Range SM-3, Advanced Kinetic Warhead and 21-inch (530 mm) diameter first stage rocket Propulsion



  1. ^ DoD contract announcement, February 14, 2008, via
  2. ^ Pentagon news briefing of February 14, 2008 (video, transcript): although no name for the satellite is given, the launch date of 2006-12-14 is stated
  3. ^ "RIM-161 SM-3 Upgrades". 2008. Retrieved 2009-11-10.  
  4. ^ Raytheon's SM-3 fact sheet
  5. ^ "AFP: Japan shoots down test missile in space: defence minister". 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-22.  
  6. ^ MDA press release. 17 December 2007.
  7. ^ NY Times article, 9/18/09.
  8. ^ Russia's Putin praises Obama's missile defense decision, LA Times, 9/19/09.
  9. ^ No missile defense in Eastern Europe,, 9/17/09.
  10. ^ Obama sharply alters missile defense plans By William H. McMichael, Sep 19, 2009,
  11. ^ Article on Sm-3 missile system,, 10/4/09.
  12. ^ Time for an All-Navy Missile Shield? By David Axe, July 13, 2009,
  13. ^ Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press (2008-02-15). "US to Try to Shoot Down Spy Satellite". Washington Post.  
  14. ^ "DefenseLink News Transcript: DoD News Briefing with Deputy National Security Advisor Jeffrey, Gen. Cartwright and NASA Administrator Griffin". 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-22.  
  15. ^ "Satellite Shoot Down: How It Will Work". February 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-21.  
  16. ^ "Navy Hits Satellite With Heat-Seeking Missile". February 21, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-21.  
  17. ^ U.S. Department of Defense (February 20, 2008). "DoD Succeeds In Intercepting Non-Functioning Satellite". Press release. Retrieved 2008-02-20.  
  18. ^ U.S. Navy (February 20, 2008). "Navy Succeeds In Intercepting Non-Functioning Satellite". Press release. Retrieved 2008-02-20.  
  19. ^ Poland, U.S. sign SOFA deal on troop deployment terms
  20. ^ "Land-Based SM-3s for Israel - and Others?". 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-23.  
  21. ^ "Land-Based SM-3s for Israel - and Others?". 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-10.  
  22. ^ "RIM-161 SM-3 (AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense)". 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-22.  
  23. ^ Raytheon Standard Missile-3 Block IB Completes Major Development Milestone

External links

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