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ESSM Block II conducts first live-fire intercept

ESSM BII

(US Navy)

The NATO Seasparrow Project Office has announced the first successful live fire intercept by an Evolved Seasparrow Missile (ESSM) Block 2.

The test was conducted in June, and saw the missile successfully intercept a BQM-74E target at an undisclosed range using its active guidance seeker-head.

The Block 2 ESSM differs in having an active seeker-head compared to the original ESSM’s semi-active seeker-head which required guidance input from the firing acquisition radar. The live-firing event was preceded by two Controlled Test Vehicle flight tests to prove the missile’s ability to launch, and a further four live fire tests will follow before production of the Block 2 missile commences.

In anticipation of this, Raytheon was awarded a US$77m (A$104m) contract in May to begin the transition from the engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) phase into low-rate manufacturing, fabricating and production.

“This flight test is critical to demonstrating the technology for the ESSM Block 2,” project manager for the NATO Seasparrow Project USN Capt Bruce Schuette said in a July 5 release. “I am very proud of the entire NATO Seasparrow Project Team, from our industry partners to our field activities and test facilities, for all the extensive work that went into making this event a success.”

ESSM Block 2 will be employed from the US Navy’s aircraft carriers, and its FFG(X) future frigates for self-defence. ESSM is compatible with the Mk 41 Vertical Launching System which can employ a quad-pack of missiles in one VLS cell.

In 2014 the Australian government granted first pass approval of the $300 million Project SEA 1352 Phase 1 to upgrade the RAN’s stocks of ESSMs to the Block 2 standard. It also signed an MoU to participate in the ESSM Block 2 development program along with NATO Seasparrow Consortium members Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the US.

“These arrangements will also offer significant opportunities for Australian industry to compete for work in the development, production, integration and through-life support of the upgraded Block 2 missiles,” then Defence Minister Senator David Johnston said in a statement.

“The Government expects to make a final decision on procurement of upgraded ESSMs around 2020. The Government is keen to ensure that every ESSM Block 2 missile that is eventually produced will provide work for Australian industry.”

The ESSM Block 2 will be fielded aboard the RAN’s Anzac class frigates and their Global Combat Ship – Australia replacements, and the Hobart class DDG.

ESSM II Chart

(US Navy)

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