Standard Missile 6

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Standard Missile 6
Standard Missile 6
Standard Missile-6 during test flight in 2014, Photo: US Navy (naval-technology.com)

Forcesproject.com – In today, we will take a look on one of the most updated and powerful missiles, have you ever heard about Standard Missile 6? The Standard Missile-6 also known as RIM-174, is a ship-launched anti-air and anti-surface interceptor missile developed by Raytheon Company and is in current production for the U.S navy.

It was designed for extended range anti-air warfare purposes providing capability against fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-ship cruise missiles in flight and terminal ballistic missile defence. Additionally, the supersonic SM-6 is the latest and sexiest version of the Navy’s Standard Missile family, whose primary role is defensive, built to shoot incoming enemy aircraft and missiles out of the sky. What make it stands out compared to the others is that this missile is designed to launch from ships and aircraft without being close to enemy counter fire. This missile is also outfitted with 450 kilograms of blast fragmentation warhead and penetrator. It functions to identify and target a specific ship within a group of vessels. Now imagine SM-6s filling most of the fleet’s missile cells, then planners wouldn’t have to guess what kinds of dangers a ship might face. Whether the threat is a ballistic or cruise missile, a bomber, a warship or an anti-ship battery on land, it doesn’t care where or what its target is, the SM-6 can hit them all!

Standard Missile 6  specifications

Before going too far, let’s see the specifications and the strike capabilities of this missile!

The body of the Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) incorporates the solid rocket booster and dual thrust rocket motors of the SM-3 series, the airframe of the SM-2 series, and the seeker and nosecone of an Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM).

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One distinguished feature of the Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) is its active seeker for terminal guidance, adapted from the AMRAAM missile. The AMRAAM seeker operates in the X-band, giving it a higher resolution than shipboard SPY radars. Because the SM-6 has a larger airframe than the AMRAAM, the seeker inside the missile is also a bit larger. In addition to the active seeker mode, the SM-6 may also operate in a semi-active mode like older SM-2 missiles.

This active terminal seeker gives the SM-6 a number of advantages. For one, active homing also allows more simultaneous engagements, as SM-6 does rely on a ship’s finite number of onboard target illuminators. More critically, an active seeker allows the missile to hit targets beyond the range of shipboard radars, which are limited by power output and the curvature of the earth.

Standard Missile 6
Standard Missile-6 during a test flight in 2014. Photo: Raytheon (naval-technology.com)

Standard Missile 6 capabilities

Let’s see the design and its capabilities

The SM-6 missile is 6.6 meters long and 0.5 meters wide. It weighs 1,500 kilograms and has a blast fragmentation warhead weighing 64 kilograms. To accomplish accurate engagement of the specified targets, the interceptor employs semi-active homing and active homing guidance.The SM-6 is a surface-to-air missile that can be launched from a carrier ship’s MK 41 vertical launch system (VLS) canister. It’s an extended-range active missile (ERAM) that uses the AMRAAM’s advanced signal processing and guidance systems (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile).

In regard to its ability to strike, the SM-6 could be used to strike land-based targets and even acts as an offensive force against other fleets. The U.S. Navy is adding the GPS guidance to the SM-6 Block IA so that it has the capability to strike surface targets if needed, but given its higher cost than other land attack weapons like the Tomahawk cruise missile it would not likely be used as a primary option. In February 2016, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter confirmed that the SM-6 would be modified to act as an anti-ship weapon.

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Moreover, the missile has also joined several testing procedures. In 2015, it successfully completed two test flights at the same time, demonstrating its capacity to intercept targets. The SM-6 Dual I destroyed a short-range ballistic missile target at sea during a first-of-its-kind test in August 2015. In December 2016, two missiles were successfully test-fired against a medium-range ballistic missile target at sea. The US Navy tested an SM-6 Dual I missile from the aegis combat system in August 2017. The missile destroyed a ballistic missile in its terminal phase. The SM-6 completed rigorous tests under the US Navy after its deployment in 2013 and achieved initial operating capability (IOC) in 2013. In December 2017, it achieved full operational capability (FOC).

In 2017, the US Department of Defense announced the sale of the SM-6 missile to a number of allies looking to increase their shipbuilding projects. The US Department of Defense granted Raytheon regulatory authority to export SM-6 missiles to US partner nations around the world. In addition, the SM-6 Block IA missile, the most modern variant, underwent its last land-based test in 2017 and entered the at-sea testing phase in 2019.

Other important aspect to highlight is the development and the upgrades of this missile.
The first version of the Standard Missile-6 went into service in December 2014 and, in January 2015, the Navy authorized the expansion of its use from five to more than 35 ships by certifying its use on non-Baseline 9 ships.

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As of May 2015, Raytheon completed delivery of 180 Standard Missile-6 interceptors. The U.S. Navy plans to eventually purchase 1,800 of the missiles. Importantly, the United States is currently the only nation fielding the missile, but Capt. Michael Ladner, program manager of the surface ship weapons office in the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems suggested that six international navies have reached out to discuss purchasing the interceptor.

In 2015, the Missile Defense Agency Director, VADM James D. Syring, testified that an SM-6 Increment 2 would be certified and operational by 2018, though he did not specify what the upgrades will add to the system.

For your information, the Navy has once again increased its procurement objective for the Standard Missile-6, bringing the program’s total cost up by nearly $2.8 billion as the Pentagon prepares for a period of great power competition. According to the recently released Defence Department Selected Acquisition Report summaries, it is noted that the SM-6 program’s price tag went from $8.8 billion to $11.5 billion, accounting for a 31.5% increase. It is interesting to notice that the SM-6 is so pricey. Even, a single round could cost around $5 million. However, the price should drop as production ramps up and economies of scale kick in. The Navy has bought just a couple hundred SM-6s since the missile first entered service eight years ago. But the fleet aims to boost production to 180 per year starting in 2024.

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