WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Japan on Tuesday conducted a second successful test of Raytheon Co’s new Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile that is being jointly developed by the two countries, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said.
During the test off the coast of Southern California near Malibu, the missile opened its new sensor seeker in space for the first time and used new altitude control rockets to target a star, said a source familiar with the test, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
No intercept was planned for this test and no target missile was launched, but several intercept tests will follow in coming years, MDA said in a statement.
The agency said program officials would evaluate the missile’s performance based on telemetry and other data from the test.
The United States has spent just over $2 billion on the SM-3 IIA weapons program, while Japan contributed about $1 billion, according to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
The new missile is a 21-inch variant of an earlier SM-3 missile and works with the U.S. Aegis combat system built by Lockheed Martin Corp to destroy incoming ballistic missile threats in space.
Tuesday’s test marked another milestone toward deployment of the missile on U.S. Aegis destroyers and Japan’s Kongo ships in coming years, as well as the U.S. Aegis Ashore site in Poland in 2018.
The test also validated the new sensor seeker developed for the redesigned kill vehicle, or warhead, that will eventually replace the ones now used on the U.S. fleet of ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California that are part of the U.S. homeland missile defense system, said the source.
Neither Raytheon nor the U.S. Missile Defense Agency had any immediate comment.
Raytheon’s new SM-3 IIA missile has bigger rocket motors and a more capable kill vehicle that would allow the missile to engage threats sooner and protect larger regions from short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that Raytheon was awarded a contract for more than $543 million for 17 SM-3 IIA missiles.
Tuesday’s test will also pave the way for Japan to buy more of the missiles, said the source.
Additional reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker