Raytheon's Standard Missile 3, deployed in Europe on board Aegis ships based in Spain since 2011, will be operational from a land facility on the Continent before the end of this year. The Block 1B version of the missile, already deployed with the U.S. Navy, will become operational at the U.S. Department of Defense's Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) Aegis Ashore location in Deveselu, Romania, before the end of 2015.

The deployment will conclude phase two of the MDA's EPAA (European Phased Adaptive Approach) program to give continent-wide protection against ballistic missile threats. The third phase involves construction of a second Aegis Ashore facility in Poland, which is on schedule to become operational in 2018. Phase three also includes deployment of the full-diameter 21-inch Block 2A missile, which will carry out two test-vehicle flights from Hawaii this year, with two intercept tests against targets scheduled for 2016.

“The SM3 Block 2A missile provides even more range and coverage,” says Dean Gehr, director of the land-based SM program at Raytheon. “The goal at the end of EPAA is that between the two land-based sites and positioning several ships, you in essence are capable of defending the entire NATO region.”

The project is moving ahead at a time the U.S. Congress is beginning discuss potential further expansion of the missile-defense system and expanding current functionality.

“Congress is pushing for the MDA to look at the benefits and feasibility of exporting or deploying Aegis Ashore sites in other locations around the world,” Gehr says. “That could be Middle East, that could be the Asia-Pacific region – they don't really identify – but they do ask MDA to look at that. And there's another element of the House Armed Services Committee language that talks about integrating air-defense capability into the site in Poland and backfitting it into the site in Romania.”