Expert Commentary

The Sky is [not] the Limit: the Evolution of the Standard Missile

March 7, 2017 | Mitch Stevison
 

The military called it Operation Bumblebee: a secret program to develop a weapon that – like the insect – could take off vertically, change directions instantly, and deliver a painful sting. Born in the years after World War II, the U.S. Navy program aimed to create a missile that could defend warships against new weapons like fast-moving fighter jets and the missiles they carried.

Early efforts produced three missiles: the Talos, Terrier, and Tartar. Talos was the largest of the three and could take out big threats, like Soviet bombers, however, many smaller ships couldn’t carry such a massive missile. Tartar was lightweight and designed to engage threats at close range. The smallest solution, the Terrier, boasted a cutting-edge (for the time) radar homing guidance system and was used by the Navy post-WWII. The first successful launch of the Terrier missile in the early 1950’s is regarded as the true beginning for the Standard Missile family.

Developments – in what can literally be considered “rocket science” – take time to accomplish. Designing, engineering, testing, and producing the world’s most sophisticated missile defense technologies, especially at a program’s inception, are purposeful and create intentional opportunities to learn and test the limits of the system.

The key to continued success is evolution.

More than 65 years later, the Standard Missile family has experienced a crescendo, accomplishing progressive upward spirals in capability.

Ballistic missile threats continue to advance, and in the same way, the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) is evolving with the help of innovative engineering. A “crawl, walk, run” development approach that builds on proven systems has created an unparalleled ballistic missile killer. It destroys short-to-intermediate range ballistic missiles in space by colliding with its target – like hitting a bullet with a bullet. The SM-3 is the only missile in existence today that can be launched from a ship at sea or from land, offering extraordinary versatility to the warfighter.

Over the years, the SM-3 has flexed its muscle in dozens of flight tests from both land and sea, which are designed to test the full capacity of the missile. In late 2007, the SM-3 was called upon for another, unique mission – destroying an inactive 5,000-pound U.S. reconnaissance satellite that was predicted to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere with hazardous fuel compounds onboard. Titled Operation Burnt Frost, the President directed the U.S. Strategic Command to develop the course of action. The satellite was destroyed at an altitude where it would pose no hazards to population centers and other satellites but without generating dangerous space debris, not unlike the SM-3’s engagement with ballistic missile threats.

The latest variant – the SM-3 IIA – has larger rocket motors and a bigger, more capable kinetic warhead that permits rapid engagement of threats. Complementary to its earlier variants, the SM-3 IIA’s enhanced range allows it to travel further, protect larger regions, and reach velocities much faster than the speed of sound. The SM-3 IIA will join its earlier variants on U.S. Navy and Allied ships and in European land-based sites.

Another member of the Standard Missile family is the Standard Missile-6 (SM-6), a somewhat new missile, first issued to the U.S. Navy fleet in 2013. Over the last four years, the missile has become a shining example of missile defense evolution. Originally designed to defend ships against enemy aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and cruise missiles, the SM-6 has redefined itself again and again by adding new capabilities to its repertoire.

By 2015, it had successfully added and proven the ability to protect ships against ballistic missile threats in their final phase of flight. A handful of months later, it demonstrated the ability to take out objects on the ocean’s surface. A test in January of 2016 resulted in the demise of the decommissioned USS Reuben James. In recent tests, it has shattered its own record several times over for the longest range surface-to-air intercept of its kind in naval history.  Three missions in one missile is remarkable, unprecedented really, but just as impressive is the fact that these new missions are added to an existing missile through software upgrades only. There is literally no physical change to the missile, and it is part of Raytheon’s effort to rapidly spiral capability into the hands of our warfighters.

The evolution of these missiles and others that Raytheon produces is intentional. The rapid development of technologies is only able to occur when you have a robust base of engineering, production, and testing expertise to build upon – a more than 60 year legacy makes a solid base.

Few missiles are started from scratch. Over the years, we’ve taken the best components of the best systems to create versatile powerhouses like the SM-3 and the SM-6. The SM-3 program has leveraged lessons learned during years of testing. The SM-6 program incorporates advanced signal processing and guidance control capabilities of Raytheon’s Advanced Medium-Range air-to-air missile. The SM-6 design is also based on the time-tested advantages of the Standard Missile’s airframe and propulsion.

Nearly 65 years ago, engineers were in uncharted territory. As we continue to work toward perfecting this technology, we’ve seen it expand from defending ships to defending continents. Thanks to the innovation and foresight of our industry and government teams, the next evolution of the Standard Missile family won’t be far away. 

The Author is Dr. Mitch Stevison

Dr. Mitch Stevison is the vice president of  Air and Missile Defense Systems at Raytheon. Before his current role, Dr. Stevison was the director of the SM-3 program, where he was responsible for the development, testing and production of all variants of the SM-3 missile portfolio. He has held numerous other industry roles in the field of missile defense prior to his current position at Raytheon. Dr. Stevison retired from the U.S. Army in 2005, following an accomplished 20-year military career... Read More

Learn more about The Cipher's Network here

Next Steps in U.S.-Cuba Relations
Strengthening U.S. Cyber Defenses
Russia Sanctions: The New Normal
Corruption in China: The Party’s Over
Change in the Kingdom: Three Big Shifts
Managing Information & Risk in the Digital Age
Endgame in Afghanistan
The Convergence of Crime and Terror
Strengthening the Public-Private Partnership
The Billion Dollar Spy: An Interview with Author David Hoffman
The New Battlefield
North Africa: Instability Increasing
The Kidnapping Capital of the World
Homegrown Terror in the Age of ISIS
The Refugee Crisis: Europe on the Brink
The Future of Mexican Oil
Cracks in the System
Embassy Security Three Years After Benghazi
Fourteen Years Later
Can Congress Solve the Cybersecurity Problem?
Arctic Game Changer?
Where They Stand on National Security
The First 100 Days
Worthy of Fleming: Anthony Horowitz's "Trigger Mortis"
At the Crossroads
Eye in the Sky
Rough Road Ahead for Rousseff
Leveling the Playing Field: Tech Access in China
The Dead Drop
Top of Mind for Chief Security Officers
Protecting Your Business
The Future of Oil
Chinese Expansion in Latin America
American Involvement in Syria
The Future of Geospatial Intelligence
The Umbrella Movement: One Year Later
Ebola: An End in Sight?
The Pakistan Problem
The Dead Drop
The Encryption Debate
Going Dark
The US-Mexico Relationship
The Rise of Mobile Technology in Africa
The Dead Drop
Construction Boom in the Gulf
Cybersecurity: The Human Factor
Beijing and the South China Sea
Will Peace Talks Succeed in Colombia?
Social Media and Terrorism
The Rise of Israel’s Tech Sector
Securing the Border
Red Sun Rising
The Dead Drop
Adopting the Iran Deal
Stability on the Peninsula
Crime in South Africa
Combatting Terrorist Financing
The Dead Drop
Recovering from a Cyber Attack
Stability in South Asia
Veterans Day
Israel’s Wave of Violence
The Dead Drop
Protecting Critical Infrastructure
ISIS on the March
The Paris Attacks
Rethinking U.S. Security Assistance
The War on Terror 2.0
Putting Mali in Context
Will Russia Ever Change?
Will Canada Pull Back?
Understanding Putin’s Popularity
Chinese Expansion in Africa
Terrorism Finance and Wildlife Poaching
Illicit Trafficking in Latin America
Climate Change and Security
Preventing Another San Bernardino
Supply Chain Security
Negotiating a New Safe Harbor Agreement
The Battle for Yemen
Foreign Tech Access in China
The Dead Drop
Offensive Cyber Operations
Travel Security in the Age of ISIS
Iran: A Rising Cyber Power?
The Future of Cybersecurity
The Arab Spring Five Years Later
Preparing Today’s Military for Tomorrow’s Wars
Cybersecurity for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea
Improving Aviation Security
The Dead Drop
Terrorism in 2016
Cybersecurity in 2016
The World in 2016: Opportunities and Risks
China in 2016
Russia in 2016
Moscow’s Cyber Buildup
The China-India Relationship
Russian Influence in Latin America
The Future of Homegrown Terrorism
Stability in Sub-Saharan Africa
Protecting Your Digital Identity
Elections in Taiwan: A Turning Point?
The Caliphate of Crime
Biotechnology’s Dark Side
Rethinking U.S. Strategy Toward China
The Evolution of Weapons of Mass Destruction
A New Era in US-Iranian Relations?
Will Information Sharing Improve Cybersecurity?
Evaluating China's New Silk Road
Tech in Latin America: Opportunities and Challenges
The Destruction of Libyan Oil
Ransomware: Protecting Yourself from Cyber Extortion
The US and India: Strengthening Security Cooperation
Security and Stability in Afghanistan
Combatting the Al Shabaab Threat
Sports Security: Protecting Your Venue
Israel’s Arab Alliance: A Counter to ISIS and Iran?
The End of U.S. Space Supremacy
The Caucasus: Instability Increasing
Stabilizing Iraq
The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Deepening U.S. Commitment to Asia
Securing Industrial Control Systems
The Battle for Ukraine
Defeating Boko Haram
Jordan: The Indispensable Ally
China’s Military Modernization
The Cybersecurity Skills Shortage
Solving Mexico’s Violence Problem
The Northern Triangle: The Most Violent Region in the World
The Future of the Middle East
Terrorism in the World’s Largest Muslim Country
The Rise of Quantum Computing
Europe’s Terrorism Problem
Stability in the East China Sea
The Rise of Counter-Drone Technology
The ISIS WMD Threat
Healthcare and the Cyber Threat
Security in the Indo-Pacific: Australia’s New Role
Countering ISIS' Message
Containing the ISIS Cancer
Security, Privacy, and the Fight Over Encryption
Taking Aim at Smart Guns
Losing Patience with North Korea
The Difficult Road Ahead for Colombia
The Taliban Resurgence
ISIS: The New Face of Global Jihad?
Connecting with Latin America
Russia and China: Mutually Assured Detachment
The Scourge of Terrorism
The Security Challenge of Terror
European Unity in the Face of Crises
Developing Enhanced Cybersecurity Systems
Pakistan: Friend and Foe?
Egypt’s Economy on the Brink
Tehran’s Balancing Act
Russia Makes Moves in the Middle East
Kenya’s Battle with al-Shabaab
Missile Defense in the Korean Peninsula
Are America's Ports Secure?
The Human Factor Behind the Panama Papers Leak
Russian Military Modernization
APTs: The Boogeymen of Cybersecurity
Vietnam: Guns and Butter
Syria: Power-sharing, Partitioning, and the Fight Against ISIS
Turbulence in Turkey
The U.S. and the Philippines: Shoulder to Shoulder in the South China Sea
The Darker Side of the Internet of Things
Cybersecurity Challenges in Asia
Taliban on the Offensive
Quagmire in Yemen
Cocaine and Conflict in Colombia
The Cloud: Nebulous, but Nimble
Censorship in China
An Emerging Crime-Terror Nexus in Europe
IRGC: Iran's Power Player
Latin America: The New Frontier for Cyber Attacks
The Hydra and the Snake: The Death of Osama Bin Laden
Nuclear Deterrence and Assurance in East Asia
Vehicle Cybersecurity: Running in Place
What Drives ISIS
Tensions Simmer in the South China Sea
Managing the Mobile Phone Malware Threat
Leaving the Oil Spigot Open
Burundi: A Path Toward Civil War?
The Value of Special Operations Forces
ISIS in the Balkans
The Tech Must Flow
North Korea’s Party Congress: What was all the fuss about?
Argentina: A Smoother Ride
Libya: Obama’s “Worst Mistake”
Tsai Ing-Wen’s Balancing Act
The North Korea Workers’ Party Congress and Kim Jong-un’s Legitimacy
Flying the Unfriendly Skies: Airline Security
Nuclear Standoff in South Asia
How to Read Riyadh
Even in Defeat, Austria’s Far-right Emulates Populist Growth in Europe
More Effective, Less Secure: The Cyber-Threat to Medical Devices
A New Era in the U.S.-Japan Security Partnership
Passing the Torch to the Next Generation of Saudi Leaders
U.S. Military Aid to Egypt Continues Despite Democratic Struggle
How Secure are Radiological Materials?
Roadblocks on the Path to Normality in Iran
Caracas in Crisis
Algeria: Exporting Stability
The Push for Kurdish Independence
U.S. and China: Strategic Cooperation at Arm’s Length
City Life: Living Smarter, Not Harder
Homegrown Terror in Orlando
A Rough Patch in U.S.-Saudi Relations
Japan’s “Abenomics”
A Tale of Two Bears: The DNC Hack
The Origins of Brexit
The Chinese Communist Party Under Xi Jinping
The Arctic: Technology and Infrastructure on Earth and in Space
Jordan: Stability Amidst Chaos
Exporting Jihad: Bosnia and Kosovo
Changing World Order: The Effects of Brexit
Navigating Uncharted Waters
Iraq after ISIS: Divide it or Fix it?
Terrorism in Istanbul: Severe Implications
North Korea as a Cyber Threat
One If By Air, Two If By Sea: Unmanned Surface Vehicles
The FBI’s Intelligence Mission
Does NATO Need a New Ideology?
Philippines v. China: Laying Down the Law of the Sea
Is Turkey Returning to a Policy of “Zero Problems?”
Federal Cybersecurity One Year After the OPM Breach
NATO: Weathering the Storms
The Rise of the Fringe: A Threat to Democracy?
Hezbollah's Many Faces
Trans-Pacific Trade Deal Remains in Limbo
The Aftermath of the Nice Attack: Is ISIS’ “Prestige” on the Rise?
Crossing the Line: A Failed Coup in Turkey
France’s Vulnerabilities in a Changing Terror Landscape
The Problem with Proxies
Water Security in South Asia: Running Dry and Running Out of Options
The Clash over Social Media Data
Extremist Groups Target Diversity in Bangladesh
Kenya: Private Sector and Government Coordinate on National Security
The ISIS-Al Qaeda Rivalry
Will Syria’s Most Productive Citizens Ever Return Home?
Trust but Verify: The United States, China & Economic Espionage
The World is Watching: The American Election and China
The Status Quo Will Not Work in South Sudan
Kurdistan as a Geopolitical Playground
Rio Olympic Games: A Missed Opportunity
Spinning Silk: Asia and the GCC
China-Japan Relations: Trading Goods While Exchanging Words
Climate Change in Ethiopia: Managing the Risks
Mounting Security Challenges in Afghanistan
Is There a Future for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt?
Niger Delta Militants Compound Nigeria’s Security Crises
Thailand Under the Junta
Brazil: Getting its House Back in Order Post Olympics
Indicators of Political Instability
Finding Water in the Desert: Water Security in the Middle East
The Blurring Line Between Cyber and Physical Threats
The World is Watching: The American Election and Russia
NATO’s Ambiguity on the Red Line for Russia
Boko Haram: The Plague Affecting Nigeria and Beyond
Tunisia: From Revolution to Governance
Russia, China, and Cyber Espionage
Best Of: The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Game-Changer or Procurement Nightmare?
Climate Change Jeopardizes National Security
Algeria: A Bulwark Against ISIS
Venezuela's Military: Both a Stabilizing and Destabilizing Force
Will Theresa May's Britain Stay Committed to European Defense?
America and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
What’s at Stake in the South China Sea?
Fifteen Years After 9/11: Much Accomplished, Much to be Done
The Post-9/11 U.S. Military
The Post-9/11 U.S. Intelligence Community
South Africa: ANC Losing Its Grip on Power
The World is Watching: The American Election and Saudi Arabia
Turkish Leverage Over the United States and European Union
Nuclear North Korea: A No-Win Scenario?
Insider Cyber Threats: A Pressing Problem Facing Business
Al Shabaab: A Persistent Threat
Unease, Uncertainty, and Strife: Global Inequality and Instability
Europe Bears a Big Burden in the World's Migration Crisis
Malicious Cyber-Actors in the Financial Services Industry
China's Ongoing Struggle to Clamp Down on Terrorism
Growing Instability in Africa’s Top Two Oil Producers
The World is Watching: The American Election and Iran
Dollars and Sense: Military Spending During an Economic Downturn
Forewarned is Forearmed: Confronting Adversaries in Cyberspace
Is Peace Possible in Colombia?
The Rise of Hypersonic Weapons
Nuclear No First Use: Ambiguity vs. Clarity
Al Qaeda Growing Stronger By the Minute
Cyber and the Law
The DRC: Strong Grip on Power, Weak Handle on Governance
Combatting Haqqani Network is Key to Afghan Strategy
War and Peace: Syria and the Question of American Intervention
The F35: A 21st Century Coalition Asset
Objective: Mosul
Where is Duterte Leading the Philippines?
Great Power Politics in Latin America
In the Strait of Hormuz, Little has Changed with Iran
Corralling the Cartel: OPEC and Oil Prices
Russian Hacking: The Difficult Path Between Inaction and Escalation
Philippines' Duterte Leaves U.S. Policymakers "Baffled"
The World is Watching: The American Election and Germany
Can Hamas Elections Shift the Status Quo?
What is the Future of U.S. Policy in Latin America?
Conflict and Common Goals: the Government and Silicon Valley
Kashmir in Crisis—Again
Al Qaeda in Syria: The Split That Wasn't
EU and U.S. Interests in Hungary in Jeopardy
The Price of Turkish Posturing in Iraq
Is it Possible to Hack the Vote?
Decision Day in the U.S.: Daunting Security Challenges Ahead
The State of Play in Syria
Modi: Modernizing India
Trump's Win Creates Uncertainty in Europe
The Powers and Pitfalls of Drone Warfare
Insurgent Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems: A Cat-and-Mouse Game
The African Migrant Crisis: The EU Takes Action
The U.S. Military: Ready or Not?
Sisi, the IMF, and Egypt's Crumbling Economy
Can Robots Fight Wars? The Future of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems
The Global Debate Over the Legality of Drones Continues
Agility and Innovation in the Third Offset Strategy
China's Economy: Great Power, Great Responsibility
Identity in Cyberspace: The Advent of Biometrics Authentication
Obama's Legacy on Russia and China: Making the Grade
Sweden, Finland & Norway Deepen Defense Ties with the West
Developing and Sticking With a Clear Strategy in Afghanistan
Italy’s Choice: Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t
Predicting the Future: Anticipating Security Events with Data Analytics
Russia’s Energy Leverage Wanes in Parts of Europe
The U.S.-Japan Alliance: A Safe Harbor
President Obama's Counterterrorism Legacy
Dialing Up Controversy with China
China Officially Ties Internet Restrictions to its own National Security
Trumping Trade: Alternatives to TPP
The International Criminal Court, Under Pressure, Turns Eyes on U.S.
Egyptian and Israeli Cold Peace Has Never Been Warmer
Trump, Russia, and the CIA: Allies and Adversaries Confused
Hacking Against Cybercrime: The FBI's New Approach
Trumping Trade: The Future of NAFTA
Violence in Mexico Surges
Directed-Energy Weapons: Time to Focus
At the Crossroads Between East and West: Turkey and the World in 2016
The Perils of Connectivity: Cyber Insecurity in 2016
The Party Endures: China and the World in 2016
Cracks in the Union: Europe and the World in 2016
Eyes on the Kremlin: Russia and the World in 2016
Terrorists Don't Have to Win - They Just Have to Survive: Counterterrorism in 2016
A Perennial Task with No Finish Line: U.S. Defense Planning and Procurement in 2016
A Changing of the Guard: U.S. Counterterrorism Policy
Poland: Strong Defense Partner But Taking Undemocratic Steps
Land, Sea, and Air: U.S. Military Readiness in the Navy and Marine Corps
Syria's Tangled Trilateral Road to Peace
The UK’s New Surveillance Law: Security Necessity or Snoopers’ Charter?
South Korea’s Foreign Policy: Leaderless, but Not Rudderless
Jammeh to Cede Power, Leave The Gambia
Mali’s Instability: Advantage, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
Railguns: The Fast, the Furious—and the Future?
Swarming the Battlefield: Combat Evolves Toward Lethal Autonomous Weapons
Mixed Signals to Moscow: The Trump Administration's Russia Policy Puzzle
NATO’s Changing Face Under the Trump Administration
South Korea’s Presidential Crisis: Is Democracy Stuck in Park?
Power and the U.S. Presidency
Trump's Hour of Action: Recommendations for Cyber Policy
Passing the ‘Football’: The Future of U.S. Nuclear Policy
The Baltics Up the Ante in Defense
Take It or Leave It: The Future of the Two-State Solution
Trump and Trudeau: Fire and Ice
Cybersecurity in the Gulf: The Middle East's Virtual Frontline
Little Margin for Error in South China Sea Policy
Eritrea: A Potential U.S. Counterterror Partner
Trump Administration Faces Daunting Challenges in Afghanistan
The New Space Race
Autonomous Hacking Bots: Menace or Savior?
Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis – Fertile Ground for Jihadis in Southeast Asia?
Cuba Lingers in Limbo
Designating the Muslim Brotherhood As Terrorists Is Complicated
Trump and the New Map of the Middle East
The New Technology of Humanitarian Assistance
Missile Defense: Blocking Threats or Blocking Diplomacy?
Flynn Controversy Raises New Questions
Doubling Down Against the Jihadist Message
Civilians and the Military Under Trump
The Gulf Cooperation Council Operates in a Tumultuous Region
DIY Defense Tech: More Countries Seek Advanced Homegrown Weaponry
The Vice Closes on Mosul: What Next?
U.S. Marines Head to Norway and Australia
Cyber Proxies: A Central Tenet of Russia’s Hybrid Warfare
The Future of Transatlantic Defense: More Europe
Trump’s NSC: A Bureaucratic Balancing Act
Tallinn Manual 2.0: Stepping Out of the Fog in Cyberspace
Defining Objectives for the U.S.-Iran Relationship
The U.S.-Japan Alliance: Reform and Uncertainty
India’s Cyber Potential: A Bridge Between East and West
Missile Defense: Targeting a Technological Solution
NATO Zeros In on Black Sea Security
Vying for Power in Iran
The TPP Without America
Disentangling the NSA and Cyber Command
The United Nations at a Tipping Point
Developing Special Operations Forces in China and Russia
Hawala Networks: The Paperless Trail of Terrorist Transactions
Objective: Raqqa
The Baltics: Veterans of Russian Cyber Operations
Security Concerns Complicate Investment Opportunities in Mozambique
What Is the “Deep State”?
Al Qaeda Takes Advantage in Syria
The War of Words Between Europe and Turkey
Jumping the Air Gap: How to Breach Isolated Networks
Sizing Up the Trump Defense Budget
Brexit Begins: Hurdles to a UK-EU Deal
India-Israel Relations: An Opportunity That Can’t Be Missed