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Standard Missile 3 Block 2A Cleared for Production

A developmental U.S. weapons system that is hoped to play a significant role in European and East Asia missile defense has completed its critical design review, meaning the technology's prototypes have been cleared for production, according to a Thursday press release from contractor Raytheon.

The Standard Missile 3 Block 2A is being jointly developed with Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The next-generation interceptor is intended for fielding on Aegis-equipped U.S. and Japanese warships. Land-based versions of the missile are also planned for fielding around 2018 in Poland in accordance with the United States' "phased adaptive approach" for European missile defense.

A critical design review is a technical study intended to ensure a weapons system's final designs meet stated performance requirements and are ready to proceed to production, demonstration and testing.

"Generally this review assesses the system final design as captured in product specifications for each configuration item in the system's product baseline, and ensures that each configuration item ... has been captured in the detailed design documentation," Rich Lehner, spokesman for the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, said in an e-mail.

"This milestone is critical because it moves the SM-3 Block 2A program from design to build," Raytheon Missile Systems President Taylor Lawrence said in a provided statement.

Lehner said there has not yet been any contract award for procurement of the system.

"We worked closely with the Missile Defense Agency to ensure our design plan was well thought out, allowing us to build and test along the way," Tim Lardy, Block 2A program director at Raytheon, said in provided comments.

The system is designed to target short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Its expected deployment in Poland has raised the hackles of Russia, which sees the interceptor as a threat to its strategic-nuclear deterrent.

Speaking on Thursday at an international conference on missile defense in Poland, Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller said the Block 2A's co-development with Japan "represents not only an area of significant technical cooperation but also the basis for enhanced operational cooperation to strengthen regional security," according to a transcript of her remarks.

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