Raytheon Co. delivered the first production Evolved SEASPARROW Missile (ESSM) to the US Navy, defining the future of ship defense.

"ESSM provides improved ship self-defense capabilities against faster, lower, smaller and more maneuverable anti-ship missile threats as well as increased firepower," said Capt. Ken Graber, the NATO SEASPARROW project manager.

ESSM is an international cooperative upgrade of the RIM-7 NATO SEASPARROW Missile. SEASPARROW is already the most widely deployed ship-defense missile system in the world.

The new missile will provide the primary air defense for the capital ships of the 10 participating NATO navies. Discussions are under way to outfit the ships of at least six other navies as well. The program is managed by the NATO SEASPARROW Consortium, a 32-year-old organization described as "NATO's largest and most successful cooperative weapons project." Raytheon's Missile Systems business unit in Tucson, AZ, is leading the team of 18 companies from 10 countries in developing and producing this next generation SEASPARROW ship self-defense system.

The other nations participating in ESSM's development include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Turkey. ESSM has the speed, agility and accuracy to engage threats to the launching vessel at maximum range and in the most challenging of conditions. The final phase of the missile's flight test program is scheduled for the early spring of 2003 when performance with the AEGIS Fire Control System of the US Navy's Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers will be verified.