An Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) is launched from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson July 23, 2010, during
operations off the coast of Southern California. Currently 10 navies — and 18 international industrial partners — are
sharing the risk and production costs of a Block 2 upgrade to the ESSM.
“The Block 2 design will feature a state-of-the-art
guidance system that uses a dual-mode [active/semi-active] X-band seeker, resulting in increased seeker
accuracy and probability of kill,” Fadler said.
The baseline ESSM requires a fire-control radar
mounted on the firing ship for terminal guidance, but
the Block 2’s embedded active radar will enable terminal engagements independent of the firing ship’s target
illumination radar, providing the potential to free up
shipboard radar resources.
Many NATO navies employ ESSM on frigates or
destroyers as a primary means of air defense. For the
U.S. Navy, the ESSM is the primary self-defense
weapon for aircraft carriers and large-deck amphibious
ships. Therefore, the need to upgrade defensive capabilities of these high-value units is vital, especially
against advanced anti-ship cruise missile threats or in
high-density raid environments.
According to Fadler, all consortium nations have approved
risk-reduction efforts to date and are considering participation in a Block 2 development. Australia, Canada,
Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and the United States
have made significant contributions to ongoing ESSM
Block 2 cooperative risk-reduction efforts, according to
program officials and capability planning documents.
Australia’s commitment to ESSM Block 2 develop-
ment was recently confirmed with approval of Project
SEA 1352 Phase 1. An Aug. 30 announcement by De-
fence Minister Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence
Materiel Jason Clare expressed Australia’s contribution to
the NATO Sea Sparrow Project Office’s risk reduction
study for the upgraded ESSM.