SM-3 missiles get threat upgrade to their software from Raytheon

TUCSON, Ariz. Raytheon engineers have started upgrading Standard Missile-3 Block IBs with what they call 'threat upgrade' software, enabling the weapon's kill vehicle to essentially hunt down more complicated, more lethal targets.

Making improvements via software upgrades means combatant commanders can now get increased ballistic missile defense capabilities without the time and cost typically associated with traditional disassembly or hardware replacement, company officials say. Raytheon officials also say the majority of details surrounding their threat upgrade software is classified.

This proves it’s possible to enhance the SM-3 Block IB’s capability without “breaking apart the missile and then rebuilding again,” says Dr. Mitch Stevison, Standard Missile-3 senior program director. “Software updates are inherently less risky and extremely cost effective.”

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Navy are planning to test an SM-3 Block IB upgraded with the new software this year.

The SM-3 Block IB’s software updates were conducted in Raytheon’s Tucson, Ariz., Space Factory. Final assembly of the SM-3 takes place at the company’s Redstone Missile Integration Facility in Huntsville, Ala.

SM-3s destroy incoming ballistic missile threats in space thought nothing more than sheer impact, which is about the equivalent of a 10-ton truck moving at 600 mph. The next-generation SM-3 Block IB has an upgraded two-color infrared seeker and the Throttleable Divert and Attitude Control System, a mechanism that propels the missile toward incoming targets.