WASHINGTON ― The NATO Seasparrow Project Office completed an intercept test of the Evolved Seasparrow Missile Block 2 on July 5, when the missile successfully intercepted a BQM-74E aerial target.

This is the first time the ESSM Block 2’s semi-active and active guidance seeker has been tested, according to a NAVSEA news release.

The active seeker improves on its predecessor by sending and receiving electromagnetic signals to improve tracking during flight. This capability makes the missile less dependent on targeting information from ship-based illuminator guidance systems like the U.S. Navy’s SPG-62 radar.

“This flight test is critical to demonstrating the technology for the ESSM Block 2,” said Capt. Bruce Schuette, project manager for the NATO Seasparrow Project. “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.”

The ESSM plays a critical role in area air defense against highly maneuverable targets, typically cruise missiles. Integration of the ESSM Block 2 onto Ticonderoga- and Arleigh Burke-class ballistic missile defense ships is part of the Advanced Capability Build 20 and Technology Insertion 16 effort.

This test follows the successful completion of two controlled test vehicle flight tests in June 2017. More live tests are scheduled to follow as the missile moves into full production.

The missile is being jointly procured by Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and the United States. It is scheduled to be fully operational by 2020.

The NATO Seasparrow Project is an international consortium of 12 nations consisting of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the United States.