Raytheon is preparing to submit a bid to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to build the first batch of SM-3 Block IIA ballistic missile interceptors while gearing up for the first flight test next year.

The proposal will include the sale of 22 of the missiles, which are now being developed, says Mitch Stevison, SM-3 program director for the company. They would be purchased by MDA with research and development funding.

The SM-3 Block IIA is the most recent iteration of the Raytheon’s SM-3 family. It is required for implementation of phase 3 of the Obama administration’s European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) for the defense of most of Europe and the East Coast of the U.S. from a possible Iranian ballistic missile attack. SM-3 IIA, which will be ship- and ground-launched, is slated for operational use in 2018 in accordance with the EPAA plan to incrementally expand defenses in and around Europe.

While the SM-3 Block IAs and IBs are now used on U.S. Navy ships as a guard against regional ballistic missiles, the IIA, co-developed with the government of Japan and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), will introduce a newer, more powerful propulsion system. The SM-3 IA, IB and IIA each have a 21-in. first stage, but the IIA will incorporate 21-in. second and third stages as well. The earlier models have only 14-in. diameters for these elements.

This provides for more range and velocity at burnout, allowing for a larger defended area. “The [IIA] missile is kinematically far more capable than the Block 1B missile,” Stevison says.

Officials tested canister egress of the new SM-3 IIA design last Oct. 24, validating models to ensure the larger missile can eject from the Navy’s Mk. 41 vertical landing system, Stevison tells Aviation Week. This canister will be used for launching the missile at sea and ashore.

The first intercept trial is slated to take place by the end of fiscal 2016, two years later than planned due to a restructuring in 2012. This allowed for more risk reduction work. The Pentagon “wanted a hardware-rich program early,” Stevison said, adding that early detailed testing has addressed risk. Four intercept attempts are planned before the SM-3 IIA is inducted for operational use. The first flight test, a controlled test vehicle trial that will put the propulsion system through its paces, is set for the first quarter of 2015.

The Pentagon is planning to spend roughly $1.51 billion developing the SM-3 IIA, with Japan adding roughly an equal amount. MHI is developing the nose cone, second- and third-stage motors, staging assembly and steering control for the interceptor.

Aerojet is building the first stage and Raytheon is manufacturing the kill vehicle. It is based off of work for the 1B, although the larger booster allows for a larger kill vehicle capable of improved signal processing and range. It will include the two-color infrared seeker and divert-and-attitude-control system now used on the 1B.

Eventually, Japan plans to buy the missile to allow for defense of its own territory with fewer ships than with using the older models.