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Home : Home : Warfare Centers : NSWC Dahlgren : Who We Are : History : Blogs : Standard Missiles


Standard Missile 

January 8, 2018
By William E. Elliott Jr. and Christine V. Mason

Special Guest Writers


The Standard Missile (SM) is the Navy’s primary surface-to-air fleet defense weapon. From its inception, the SM was a modular design to replace the entire 3T [Talos, Tartar, Terrier] missile family with a single standard type of missile. The first iteration was SM-1, and as new iterations were implemented a new family was introduced as SM-2, SM-3, and so forth. Improvements to a modular section were introduced as block variants, e.g., SM-2 Block III, SM-2 Block IV. Typical missile sections are guidance, ordnance, autopilot/battery, rocket motor, and booster. The SM family comes as a medium-range (MR) version or as an extended-range (ER) version. The ER version is a two-stage missile with an initial launch booster that is ejected shortly after launch; then the second stage rocket motor is ignited.[1]. There were also the Principals for System Safety (Don Ammerman and Gary Friedman), and for Electromagnetic Environmental Effects (E3) and Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance (HERO) (Jim Moneyhon, Ken Armstrong, and Billy Lenzi)[2].

Standard Missile
Medium Range Version -
rail launch

Standard Missile
Extended Range Version -
rail launch
Standard Missile Extended Range Version (SM-2 Block IV Missile)
Some of the engineers that worked on SM at Dahlgren.
Front L to R: Jesse East, ??,
To Meyers, Sandy Fenwick,
Bob Kilpatrick, Jim Moneyhon,
Don Ammerman, Chuck Boyer.
Second Row L to R: ??,
Tom McCants, Gene Pitzer,
Norbert Harold, Ken Musselman,
Bill Lucas, Rita Smith.
Back Row L to R: Doily Fulcher,
Jim Partak, Frank Moore,
Stan Rose, ??,
Byron Coleman, Glenn Moore

Standard Medium Range Missile—rail launched

Standard Missile—vertical launch

Standard Missile Medium Range Missile—vertical launch

Standard Missile Extended Range Missile—vertical launch

Keith Miller and Christine Mason

The Standard Missile Office (G205), initially headed by Tom McCants, served as the single point of contact for all SM-related work at Dahlgren. The major role was to focus both technical and managerial support to Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) project managers and to other members of the SM community across the country. Dahlgren engineers provided expertise in several areas to ensure the missile designs performed correctly and to ensure they could be safely operated in a shipboard environment. During my SM experience, the following Dahlgren engineers—along with their team members—provided technical expertise in such areas as missile kinematics (Dr. Bill Chadwick, Steve Malyevac, and Ernie Ohlmeyer), ordnance design (Bill Elliott, Charles Garnett, and Bill Henderson), and system effectiveness (Dr. Tom Goswick, Tom Wasmund, and Chuck Ellington), telemetry (Gene Pitzer and Rich Mason), infrared seeker (Dave Troyer, Stan Rose, and John Pennington), ordnance performance and safety tests at Pumpkin Neck (Joe Powell), and nuclear hardening (Jim Partak and Jeff King)

As the program evolved and more complex missile designs were being implemented, Dahlgren’s role changed accordingly. In 1986, under Tom McCants’ leadership, Dahlgren was identified as the SM Lead Laboratory. We served to ensure missile designs met operational requirements, requirements were consistently allocated, and SM performance was certified in several key areas. The Dahlgren SM Program Office distinguished itself as a proactive agent for the Navy to ensure missile designs met performance and effectiveness requirements. To make sure the engineers had access to the latest drawings, specifications, interface drawings, and other key SM documents, Mr. McCants implemented the formation of a central depository of all SM documents. Norbert Harold, with contractor support from Vitro Corporation, created this depository that resulted in the SM Data Center later led by Christine Mason and later by Jackie Welch and Sharon Marshall. It was and continues to be a tremendous asset guaranteeing we have the latest SM specification data and technical reports.

After Tom’s leadership, this role was continued by Keith Miller as newer missile designs were developed. Dahlgren was involved in developing SM-1s and multiple SM-2 variants. The earlier versions were rail-launched missiles. When the Aegis ships were developed, the Vertical Launch System (VLS) was introduced. Each missile is within its own canister, and the forward and aft portions of the ships are populated with multiple VLS canisters. When a threat missile is detected, the Aegis system can select the appropriate missile, which can be directly launched without all the launcher motion a rail-launched missile requires. (A video of the Standard Missile 2 launch from the USS Arleigh Burke can be viewed at: .)The Aegis system allows near-simultaneous missile launches when multiple threats must be engaged.

During the ’80s and ’90s, there were several development programs that continued to improve SM performance. As anti-ship missile threats evolved from very low-altitude to very high-altitude engagements, the SM community kept pace with advanced guidance, ordnance section, propulsion, and missile-to-ship interface technologies; and other improvements to enhance SM performance against these ever-evolving threats. We had the privilege to work on several development programs that included incremental changes to various missile sections: SM-2 Block II, SM-2 Block III, SM-2 Block IIIA program, SM-2 Block IIIB program, and SM-2 Block IV.

During that era, the evolution of “direct hit” technology was being investigated as a new kill mechanism to defeat a ballistic missile threat. Under the leadership of George Long, Dahlgren’s expertise, along with the SM community, conducted a Lightweight Exoatmospheric Projectile (LEAP) demonstration program that resulted in the SM-3 development to engage this specific threat. But that’s another story for another day. 

It was an interesting time as the contractor community competed and merged for the development and production contracts related to the SM. My first experience with the community was status and design reviews at General Dynamics in Pomona, CA. ADM Wayne Meyers opened meetings with very inspirational talks highlighting SM topics. For young engineers, these motivational speeches inspired them to do their best jobs for the program and the Navy. It was also a very educational time as I observed ADM Meyer critiquing and asking questions of engineers onstage. Before the days of desktop computers, drafting departments created viewgraphs[3] by hand, and the charts were hand-carried to various meetings. They were shown on machines that were a constant challenge with burned out bulbs or other mechanical failures. Editing charts after a review in most cases resulted in re-creating the entire chart so erasures marks would not show in the projection; a far cry from today’s computer-generated charts and electronic projection.

There were several merges and buyouts as contractors competed to be the prime contractor on various Navy programs, which in some cases caused them to drop component development and production due to low profitability. As a result, that caused parts obsolescence issues for us and we were required to create new in-house expertise. We interfaced with the SM contractor, General Dynamics, which was then purchased by the Hughes Missile System. Soon after, the Hughes company moved its main offices from Pomona to Tucson, AZ. To ensure product and capabilities continuity, the Navy desired second sources for its primary programs, and Raytheon Company, at Hanscom Field near Boston, MA, was selected as a second source. Shortly after, as often happens, Navy funding became a challenge, so Hughes and Raytheon formed the Standard Missile Company and relocated to McLean, VA. It was a demanding time as the two major contractors resolved working relations along with the role of the various Navy labs. Eventually, Raytheon purchased the Hughes company, and SM operations were moved to Tucson where they remain today.

After completion of the Mk 125 warhead development program, I had the great opportunity to be selected as Dahlgren’s next SM Program Manager. It was an honor and a challenge to manage the center’s SM team following Tom McCants, who formulated the Lead Laboratory construct, and Keith Miller, who continued and built upon Dahlgren’s SM legacy. My management focus was the development and production support of SM missiles that used fragmentation warhead designs, while George Long managed the direct hit programs and Mike Puig led the VLS programs. As we focused on technical management, we all had the support of Christine Mason, who focused on the financial and business aspects.

Christine was one of the models of success for a program Dahlgren offered at that time, “The Upward Mobility Program,” which allowed qualified employees to gain relevant on-the-job experience and training for an alternate career path. She transitioned from an Executive Assistant position in 1990 and accepted a Program Analyst position, and managed and evolved the Missile Systems Data Center into a National Repository. Next, she worked with our Administrative Officer and became the Missiles Systems Program Office Program Business and Financial Manager (PBFM). At this time, financial data was received on computer printouts from K Department. The printouts were analyzed by hand using desktop calculators with paper printouts to provide the various leaders and program managers a financial status. Later, with the introduction of desktop computers and spreadsheet programs such as Lotus Works and later with Microsoft Excel, business managers were provided in-depth financial reports. Christine started her PBFM efforts by working with the department administrator, Betty Wingo, before becoming the SM Program Office financial lead. She quickly mastered new computer technologies and available software products, which allowed us to automate much of the budgeting process and to better justify and defend our tasking and funding requirements to NAVSEA program offices. We could now, along with the support and input of our technical task managers, document tasks and the associated funding and play a key role in developing a number of SM development and production programs.

Dahlgren’s Lead Laboratory role was crucial toward the development of various SM designs. We continued to build on the laboratory’s foundation, and our engineers continued to provide the expertise and independent recommendations to ensure the missiles’ designs performed as required. We had an incredible team of engineers, scientists, and administrators, too many to list by name, but all of them contributed to the success of SM programs at Dahlgren. Along with the SM community of Navy labs and contractors, we worked together as team to ensure SM success. Dahlgren continues to provide this expertise and support to the SM community.

[1] Unfortunately, we cannot list all the engineers and scientists involved in SM programs, but we do want to thank all of those who made and continue to make them successful.

[2] The Principals for System Safety, E3, and HERO were national experts; their approval was required before ordnance could be used aboard ships.

[3] A picture consisting of a positive photograph or drawing on a transparent base viewed with a projector.



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