Raytheon's SM-3 anti-missile system
Raytheon's SM-3 anti-missile system Israel news photo: Raytheon Co.

U.S. defense contractor Raytheon Company, the world's largest producer of missiles, says it is now developing a land-based system SM-3 (Standard Missile 3) missile interceptor system that "could provide Israel a near-term solution to counter ballistic missiles from Iran."

The company described the system in a presentation at a U.S. Army-organized missile defense conference in Huntsville, Alabama. The SM-3 was originally intended for use against short and medium-range missiles and was designed for ships equipped with the Lockheed-Martin ballistic missile defense system. It has already passed 15 "hit-to-kill" intercept tests.

The system, which could be ready as early as 2013, is designed to work with a long-range Raytheon radar system already fielded in Israel, the company said in a statement.

At present, the sea-based system works like this: the SM-3 boosts out of the launcher and establishes radio communication with the ship, which guides the missile toward the predicted intercept point. During its flight, the missile ejects its nosecone, exposing a Kinetic Warhead (KW). Approximately 30 seconds before intercept, the SM-3 KW begins searching for the target, based on data received from the ship.

The KW acquires the ballistic missile's warhead with its long-wavelength imaging infrared seeker and maneuvers to enable a hit-to-kill intercept. As it closes on the target, it identifies the lethal payload area and shifts 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.

The new system is also being looked at for possible inclusion in the U.S. shield against ballistic missiles in Europe. Russia, however, has expressed strong opposition to the placement of any anti-missile batteries in Poland or the Czech Republic, perceiving it to be a threat to its own security.

The SM-3 system was originally developed for use by the U.S. Navy to intercept short and medium-range ballistic missiles. Raytheon believes that a ground-based version of the system, which currently is deployed from the sea, will be popular with overseas clients.