The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has achieved its first-ever salvo test of the SM-3 Block IB missile, and the intercept took place at the highest altitude for the system to date.

The first SM-3 IB that was launched successfully intercepted the target, a short-range ballistic missile described as the “one of the most complex targets that we have shot to date,” says Mitch Stevison, Raytheon’s SM-3 program manager. The target was an Aegis Readiness Assessment Vehicle-C, Developed by Kratos, Port Hueneme NSWC, MDA.

The second SM-3 IB was launched about 2 min. after the first in accordance with military doctrine for assured kill. The missile was set to intercept the target if the first SM-3 IB did not. Since the first missile executed the intercept, the second missile flew a profile through the debris field that it was preprogrammed to fly.

The target was detected by the Aegis system’s SPY-1 radar on the USS Lake Erie cruiser, which also fired the missiles. The ship employed the Aegis BMD 4.0 Weapon System; the SM-3 Block IB includes a two-color infrared seeker and more sophisticated divert-and-attitude-control system, improvements over the IA version.

The ship, equipped with the second-generation Aegis BMD weapon system, developed a fire control solution and launched two SM-3 Block IB guided missiles to engage the target. This latest version of the second-generation Aegis BMD Weapon System is capable of engaging longer range and more sophisticated ballistic missiles.

Program officials will assess and evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test, Navy officials say. Raytheon officials say that data collected and yet to be analyzed about the second SM-3 IB’s flight will provide info on how to conduct salvo operations.

“This was an operationally realistic test, in which the target’s launch time and bearing are not known in advance, and the target complex was the most difficult target engaged to date,” Navy officials say.

Designated Flight Test-Standard Missile-21 (FTM-21), the test was the fourth consecutive successful intercept of the SM-3 Block IB guided missile with the Aegis BMD 4.0 Weapon System.

“This latest test is the first time we have seen USS Lake Erie, sailors, and Aegis BMD Weapon System schedule, analyze, launch and control multiple missiles in flight through intercept at the same time,” said Nick Bucci, director of BMD Development Programs at the Mission Systems & Training business for Lockheed Martin, the Aegis prime contractor.

FTM-21 is the 27th successful intercept in 33 flight test attempts for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002.

SM-3 is set for another test in the coming weeks that is the final trial that – if successful – is needed for the system to graduate to full-rate production.