Standard Missile-3 is being developed for Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) as part of the Missile Defense Agency’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). The Aegis BMD system integrates SM-3 with the Aegis Weapon System (AWS) aboard U.S. Navy cruisers to provide an umbrella of protection against short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. SM-3 is compatible with the MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) deployed on many U.S. Navy and international surface combatants.
As a ballistic missile threat rises above the horizon, ship’s radar acquires, begins tracking, and the weapon system begins calculating the engagement solution. Upon command from the ship’s weapon system, the SM-3 boosts out of the launcher and establishes radio communication with the ship.
After MK 72 booster burnout, the MK 104 Dual Thrust Rocket Motor (DTRM) ignites. In-flight communications from the ship guide the missile toward the predicted intercept point. After MK 104 burnout and separation, the MK 136 Third Stage Rocket Motor (TSRM) ignites, propelling the third stage out of the atmosphere. Throughout its flight, the missile continues to receive in-flight target updates from the ship to refine the intercept guidance solution. The TSRM contains two separate pulses that can be initiated to optimize the engagement timeline. During flyout, the third stage pitches over and ejects the nosecone, exposing the SM-3 Kinetic Warhead (KW). Following TSRM burnout roughly 30 seconds before intercept, the SM-3 KW separates from the third stage and immediately searches for the target based on pointing data received from the ship. The KW acquires the ballistic missile warhead with its long-wavelength imaging infrared seeker. The KW’s Solid Divert and Attitude Control System (SDACS) precisely maneuvers the KW to enable a hit-to-kill intercept. As the KW closes on the target, it will identify the lethal payload area and shift its guidance aimpoint to ensure a lethal hit, destroying the target with more than 130 megajoules of kinetic energy, or the equivalent of a 10 ton truck traveling at 600 miles per hour.