By Kris Osborn
As part of a pre-deployment effort to ensure the weapons could shoot down incoming enemy aircraft, cruise missiles and drones, among other things.
“The live-fire exercise was part of the strike group’s final preparation for the Composite Training Unit Exercise that certifies all strike groups prior to deployment. It demonstrated our continued commitment to train for today’s warfighting environment,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Kara Yingling told Scout Warrior.
The live-fire exercise used four destroyers and two cruisers shoot SM-2 missiles out of the ships’ Vertical Launch Systems at approaching targets in the sky. The missiles used ship-based radar and fire control technologies to coordinate the firings.
All six ships scored kills as measured by the missile and target instrumentation, including two direct hits. This demonstrates a successful ramp-up in an era of continued complexity and tactical relevance in the employment of the Aegis weapons system against high-end threats, a Navy statement said.
The live-fire test also drew from tactics and procedures known as “cooperative tracking” wherein ship-based radar and fire control technologies share target information with one another in real time and track targets simultaneously, Navy officials explained.
“SM-2 variants have successfully intercepted targets, proving their lethality against subsonic, supersonic, low- and high-altitude, high-maneuvering, diving, sea-skimming, anti-ship cruise missiles fighters, bombers and helicopters in an advanced electronic countermeasures environment,” a Navy statement said.
In service since the early 80s, SM-2 missiles are about 15-feet long with a 3-foot wingspan. The weapon uses semi-active radar and infrared guidance to track targets; the SM-2 detonates on contact and fires a blast-fragmentation warhead, according to Navy data.
Most variants of the SM-2 missile can fire about 90 nautical miles to intercept incoming enemy fire as part of a ship’s layered defense system. The Navy also operates a SM-2 Block IV Extended Range which can reach ranges from 100 to 200 nautical miles.
For example, ships such as destroyers and cruisers can use an SM-3 interceptor missile for longer-range ballistic missile defense beyond the earth’s atmosphere. The SM-2 can destroy closer-in targets along with the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, Rolling Airframe Missile and Close-in-Weapons-System, or CIWS. CIWS uses a Phalanx area weapon to fire a large number of interceptor projectiles at the closest-in threats such as approaching enemy small boats. The concept behind layered defense is to build in redundancy so if approaching fire is not destroyed at further ranges, there are still opportunities to knock out an incoming enemy threat closer to the ship.
“The SM-2 will continue to be a mainstay of the Air Defense capability of the Aegis fleet. As with any weapon, we are constantly seeking ways to upgrade its capabilities and extend its service well into the future,” Yingling added.
As makers of the SM-2 missile, Raytheon developers said the SM-2 is currently being used by eight Navies around the globe.
"We are pleased Standard Missile-2 continues to demonstrate why it is a mainstay of the U.S. Navy and eight allied navies. It has a long history of more than 2,700 flight tests, providing fleet area defense for many nations, for many years to come,” Gordon Bourgeois, business development manager for SM-2, told Scout Warrior in a written statement.