U.S. surface ships will be able to use SM-2s to conduct offensive strikes against enemy aircraft and surface ships out to ninety nautical miles.
This is where the SM-2 Block IIIC comes in. The upgrade substitutes the legacy semi-active radar homing system for the SM-6 active seeker while leaving intact the other aspects of the SM-2 airframe. This produces a medium-range missile that can be fired against targets using tactical data supplied from off-board sensors fitted with the U.S.Navy’s new Cooperative Engagement Capability, whether fixed radars ashore or the E-2D Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft embarked aboard U.S. carriers.
With the resulting new capabilities from the SM-6’s sophisticated guidance system, U.S. surface ships will be able to use SM-2s to conduct offensive strikes against enemy aircraft and surface ships out to ninety nautical miles while simultaneously remaining at emissions control and preserving their limited stock of SM-6s for more distant or challenging targets. While the ideal solution for medium-range air defense would be a lengthened, extended range ESSM,or “ESSM-ER,” —which would quadruple magazine capacity by packing four missiles into a single VLS cell—the SM-2 Block IIIC is an excellent interim solution that will leverage the Navy’s existing inventory to improve combat capability at low cost.