SM-6 missile dual-capability upgrade boosts US Navy’s air warfare capability
The usage of SM-6 missile as an offensive weapon against surface targets is a new application for the Navy, which brings another type of surface firepower to the fleet.
The SM-6 is a dual-capability missile that can be used for either air defence (i.e., countering aircraft and anti-ship cruise missiles) or ballistic missile defence.
The US Navy has executed four flight tests of the surface-to-air Standard Missile-6 Block I (SM-6 Blk I) in Hawaii islands between April 6 and 13.
The Navy is preparing a variant of Standard Missile 6 missiles for combat by launching weapon engineered with updated software, enabling it to perform a number of functions including air warfare, ballistic missile terminal defence and anti-surface warfare capabilities.
The tests follow recent Missile Defence Agency and Navy testing which simultaneously fired two Standard Missile-6 weapons in rapid succession at a single ballistic missile target. During the tests, two SM-6 missiles, using an active seeker technology, were able to simultaneously track and destroy a single target, improving the probability of a target kill.
“These latest flight test successes demonstrate once again the versatile capability of SM-6 Blk I,” Capt. Michael Ladner, major program manager for Surface Ship Weapons, Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems, announced in a statement from Naval Sea Systems Command.
The SM-6’s software upgrades provide to the missile an active seeker to send a signal or electromagnetic ping forward in addition to receiving them. Electromagnetic signals, which travel at the speed of light, send a signal forward before analysing the return signal to determine the speed, size, shape, or configuration of an approaching threat. A computer algorithm, evaluating the speed of light and the time of travel, determines the exact distance of an object.
The SM-6 active seeker provides the missile to better attack manoeuvring as it is not wholly dependent upon a ship-based illuminator to bounce a signal off a target for a merely passive seeker to receive.
Compared with SM-3, the SM-6 can track and destroy lower-altitude threats such as a ballistic missile in the terminal phase of decent to its target. The missile is now established as defensive, offensive and capable of three distinct missions.