SM-6 as Defense Against Cruise Missile Threats
By PATRICIA KIME
Sea Power Correspondent
The global proliferation of cruise missiles, predicted widely after
Operation Desert Storm, has yet to materialize. But the lack of an immediate
threat is not stopping the U.S. Navy from updating measures to counter
antiship missiles as well as land-attack cruise missiles.
The Missile Defense Agency estimates that in the next 10 years as many
as 20 countries could possess cruise missiles. The Russians are working
with India to develop a cruise missile that is not covered by the Missile
Technology Control Regime, an informal and voluntary association of 34
countries that want to foster the nonproliferation of unmanned systems
that can delivery weapons of mass destruction. Members include Russia
and the United States. India, China, Iran and North Korea are not members.
These and other developments could lead to widespread purchases of the
weapons among nations or the manufacturing of copycats. Should that proliferation
occur — and along with it, an increase in the likelihood of a terrorist
organization obtaining a cruise missile — the Navy needs to be
ready, said Steven Zaloga, an analyst with the Teal Group, an aerospace
consulting firm in Fairfax, Va.
“The threat could pop up suddenly, overnight, and the problem
with countermeasures is [that] you cannot field them overnight,” he
While much attention has been focused on ballistic-missile defense,
the Navy has always been concerned with cruise missiles, which fly below
radar, hugging the terrain or the ocean surface. The Navy faces a threat
from land-attack cruise missiles as well as antiship missiles.
“That is why they are pursuing a weapon that can handle both,” Zaloga
That weapon is the Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) extended-range active missile,
For use as an anti-air warfare and area air-defense missile, the SM-6
is expected to provide extended-range anti-air warfare capability against
a multitude of targets, including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles
and land-attack and antiship cruise missiles in flight, either over sea
With its active radar system, the SM-6 also is expected to engage over-the-horizon
targets using a future networked fire-control data system for targeting.
The SM-6 is designed to replace the Navy’s Standard Missile-2
(SM-2) Block IV surface-to-air missile, which was not purchased in large
quantities because it was to be replaced by the SM-2 Block IVA that was
to have anti-air warfare and theater ballistic-missile defense capability.
But the Block IVA, along with the Navy’s entire area missile-defense
program, was canceled by the Defense Department in December 2001 because
of poor contract performance and cost overruns. Acquisition and average
procurement unit costs had exceeded original goals by more than 50 percent,
and the project was more than two years behind schedule when it was scrapped.
The Navy does not expect to have the same financial problems with the
SM-6. The service awarded a $440 million sole-source contract to Raytheon
in September for development, production, testing and delivery of the
“Raytheon was the only source that can satisfy the extended-range
and active-seeker requirements associated with a ship-launched extended-range
active missile within the required time frame,” a Navy official
from the Integrated Warfare Systems Program Executive Office said in
a written statement.
Development of the SM-6 will rely heavily on technology already produced
by Raytheon, including using the airframe of the SM-2 Block IV missile
and the advanced seeker technology of the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air
Missile, or AMRAAM.
“By employing our combat-proven [AMRAAM] technology on our widely
deployed and ship-certified Standard Missile-2 airframe, we have created
a highly effective and affordable extended-range anti-air warfare solution
with minimum risk for our Navy customer,” said Edward Miyshiro,
Raytheon’s Naval Weapons Systems vice president.
The SM-6 will have two guidance modes — active and semi-active — which
will allow it to engage standard targets now and give more flexibility
in the future, the Navy said.
The SM-6 will carry a blast-fragmentation warhead and be deployable
from AEGIS cruisers and destroyers. It also will be compatible with systems
on future surface combatants, including the DD(X), the Navy official
According to the service, each missile is expected to cost $2 million.
The Navy adds that it needs this capability because without it, the service
must rely on a weapon that can only be deployed when the enemy is within
radar range of a ship.
The Navy currently has the SM-2 Block IV in its inventory but relies
heavily on its stock of SM-2 Block IIIBs. The Block IIIB uses a dual-mode
infrared/radio frequency guidance system but doesn’t have active
The SM-2 Block IIIB is a reliable and favored surface-to-air defense
weapon, having been tested from a variety of launch platforms and demonstrating
extended area air defense capability. And the Navy sees it as a state-of-the-art
weapon that can handle current threats.
But service officials believe the SM-6 will create a complementary capability
for the SM-2 Block IIIB and give the service a fleet air defense capability
that will last through the mid-21st century.
“As a semi-active missile, the SM-2 Block IIIB is limited to operations
within the radar horizon of the firing unit,” the Navy wrote in
its statement. “With a future Integrated Fire Control, SM-6 will
provide the surface Navy with an increased battle space against over-the-horizon
[anti-air warfare] threats, taking full advantage of the kinematics available
to the Standard Missile.”
The SM-6 is expected to be initially deployed in fiscal 2010. Critical
design review is targeted for fiscal 2006 with flight testing in fiscal
2008. Its capabilities, speed and maximum range are classified.
Much of the missile’s testing and production will take place at
Raytheon Missile Systems facility in Tucson, Ariz., with some work conducted
at Raytheon facilities in Arkansas and Massachusetts.
The Navy maintains the weapon is key to supporting the vision of Sea
Shield, the service’s effort to provide sea-based theater and strategic
defense vice unit and task force defense.
“It will change the paradigm for operations at sea and will take
full advantage of the Navy’s approach to sensor netting to achieve
true network centric warfare,” the Integrated Warfare Systems Program
Executive Office official said.
For now, the threat of a cruise-missile strike against a Navy ship or
other U.S. target, including a U.S. city, is low. According to Zaloga,
the governments most interested in acquiring cruise missile capability — namely
Iraq and Libya — have been removed from the market. Iran and North
Korea have expressed interest, but their attempts to acquire them have
Eventually, a non-governmental agency, such as a terrorist organization,
could attempt to acquire a cruise missile. And if that happens, the issue
would become a matter of homeland security, Zaloga said.
“I can’t point to a group that would be capable of doing
it right now, but there’s a good chance in the next decade that
a group could get their hands on one. And it’s not inconceivable
that they could be launched from a small ship,” he said.
That’s where the Navy’s SM-6 would come into play.
“The weapon can cover a broader range of problems [than what the
Navy has now],” Zaloga said.