Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) is both a field activity of the Naval Sea System Command, as well as the Navy element of the overall Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency (MDA) program. Rear Admiral Joseph A. Horn, Jr. wears two hats: Commander, Aegis BMD Field Activity and Program Director, Aegis BMD. The Aegis BMD Program Office includes 17 military, 168 government civilians and 220 contractor support personnel who lead the government responsibilities for program and system integration, shipboard installation, test and certification.
Aegis BMD builds upon and extends capabilities inherent in the Aegis Weapon System, Standard Missile and Navy Command and Control systems. Aegis BMD provides ballistic missile engagement capability against short to intermediate range ballistic missiles both above and inside the atmosphere. Aegis BMD ships have integrated planning, detection, control, engagement and damage assessment functionalities for ballistic missile engagement.
Rigorous, operationally realistic testing is a hallmark of Aegis BMD and key to the program's unparalleled success. In 2008, Aegis BMD completed a series of intercept firings to validate its operational capability against an increasingly difficult set of targets and scenarios. This testing was assessed by the Navy's independent operational test agent,Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COMOPTEVFOR). COMOPTEVFOR determined the Aegis BMD system to be “operationally effective and operationally suitable” and recommended transitioning the capability to the Navy. This is the same system that successfully intercepted the errant satellite in February 2008.
Aegis BMD includes the Long Range Surveillance and Track (LRS&T) capability. Aegis BMD modified ships search, detect and track ballistic missiles of all ranges – including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) - and transmit the track data to the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). During the July 2009 North Korean crisis, Aegis BMD destroyers patrolled the Sea of Japan to provide early warning of ballistic missile launches to the BMDS. Aegis BMD's successful performance in these real world events, Operation Burnt Frost and the North Korean crisis, proves that Aegis BMD is the most operationally ready, deployable and effective MDA program.
The integrated BMDS forces the hostile ballistic missile to run a gauntlet of space-, land-, and sea-based engagement elements operated by multiple Services. Aegis BMD compliments other Ballistic Missile Defense Programs by detecting ballistic missiles and transmitting track data. In the near future, midcourse (Aegis BMD) and terminal missile defense systems (Patriot, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Aegis BMD) will coordinate engagements of short and medium range ballistic missiles. Integrated, layered defense will be realized as tracking information is shared among these systems, enabling a midcourse engagement followed by terminal engagements. Regional / theater layered defense is another example of Aegis BMD delivering relevant capability to the BMDS.
Meeting the Demand Signal
Aegis BMD and the Navy have upgraded 21 Aegis combatants to conduct ballistic missile defense operations. Sixteen of these ships are assigned to the Pacific Fleet and five ships assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) has designated BMD as a core Navy mission and looks to populate the BMD capability throughout the Aegis Fleet to meet the Combatant Commanders' (COCOMs') demand signal. Due to the COCOMs' demand, Aegis BMD and Navy are jointly responding to the need for operational Aegis BMD capability through BMD upgrades to Aegis ships, Aegis Modernization Program and new construction. In the President's Budget for FY11 (PB11), Aegis BMD is placing more funds to accelerate the number of Aegis BMD ships in the Fleet and the Navy is adding funds to bring online four additional ships with BMD capability. Together, the Navy and Aegis BMD will bring an additional seven Aegis BMD ships on line between FYs 10 and 12. Across the Future Years Defense Plan, PB11 will increase the total number of funded Aegis BMD-capable ships from 21 to 38 by FY15, including the first of the new construction DDG-51 class, DDG-113.
Transitioning to the Fleet
As Aegis BMD transitions to the Fleet, firing exercises have been conducted to train the ships' crews. In Pacific Blitz 2008, two Pearl Harbor-based Aegis BMD destroyers fired SM-3 missiles at separate targets. This was the first Fleet operational firing to employ SM-3 against a ballistic missile target. Stellar Daggers, another West Coast exercise, was a Fleet firing event that demonstrated simultaneous engagements of threats in two different mission areas, BMD and Anti-Air Warfare (AAW). This event completed the Operational Test of the Aegis BMD terminal capability using BMD modified SM-2 Block IV missiles.
In the first live, sea-based Aegis BMD test held on the East Coast, USS MONTEREY (CG 61), USS RAMAGE (DDG 61) and USS GONZALEZ (DDG 66) all successfully tracked the short-ranged ballistic missile target that was launched from NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility. MONTEREY and RAMAGE took turns tracking and simulating engagements of the target that would have resulted in successful intercepts. GONZALEZ participated by tracking the target.
The approach used to develop Aegis BMD was to evolve the BMD capability from the Aegis Fleet. These Aegis Cruisers and Destroyers already have the complete development, system engineering, integration, testing, training, logistics, technical support, operations and sustainment infrastructure in place. This infrastructure has been successfully operating for close to forty years, routinely conducting Aegis baseline upgrades, thus making the operations and sustainment costs for Aegis BMD almost negligible.
Phased, Adaptive Approach
Aegis BMD is the cornerstone of the Phased, Adaptive Approach for missile defense of Europe. Following Presidential direction to ensure that Europe is protected from an evolving ballistic missile threat, the United States is committed to deploying technology that is proven, cost-effective and adaptable to an evolving security environment. Aegis BMD and SM-3 upgrades are being phased in to deployed Aegis BMD ships and land-based facilities during this decade. Each baseline upgrade provides more capability for countering evolving ballistic missile threats, thereby providing more coverage to our Allies.
“Our new missile defense architecture in Europe will provide a stronger, smarter, and swifter defense of American forces, and American allies. It is more comprehensive than our previous program. It deploys capabilities that are proven (SM-3 Block IA) and cost-effective. And it sustains and builds upon our commitment to protect the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats. And it ensures and enhances the protection of all of our NATO allies.”
President Barack Obama
September 17, 2009
Phase 1 is already underway. The Aegis BMD Weapon System BMD 3.6.1 and the SM-3 Block IA missile are already deployed in the Fleet. In this first phase, Aegis BMD engagement capable warships are provided for the protection of southern Europe. The first deployment of European Phased Adaptive Approach capabilities came on March 7, 2011 when the guided missile cruiser USS MONTEREY, homeported in Norfolk, VA., deployed to Europe.
In Phase 2 (2015), the more advanced Aegis BMD 4.0.1 and SM-3 Block IB missile are deployed at sea and on land. The addition of land-based sites significantly increases coverage to NATO countries against Iranian ballistic missiles. For Phase 3 (2018), Aegis BMD 5.1 and SM-3 Block IIA provide increased coverage of NATO countries against short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles.
Aegis BMD will be able to engage increasingly longer range, more sophisticated ballistic missiles with the deployment of the next Aegis BMD Weapon System upgrade and the SM-3 Block IB. In addition, Aegis BMD continues to improve its ability to fire or engage a threat using remotely supplied track information. As an example, in Flight Test Mission 15 (FTM-15), an AN/TPY-2 (Forward-Based Mode) radar located at Wake Island will detect the intermediate range ballistic missile target and transmit tracking data to an Aegis BMD ship over 2,000 km away. Based on TPY-2 radar data a firing solution will be calculated and an SM-3 missile will be launched. As the target continues its trajectory, the ship's SPY-1 radar will acquire the target and provide guidance commands to the missile to intercept the target. Such engagement coordination expands battlespace and depth of fire.
The Navy and Aegis BMD are engaged in a joint effort to migrate the Aegis BMD capability into the Aegis Modernization Program's Open Architecture (OA) efforts. The Aegis OA program is key to potentially expanding Aegis BMD capability to the majority of the Aegis Fleet. Open Architecture and DDG Modernization will also provide the foundation for implementing Aegis BMD in Allied Navy ships.
The SM-3 Cooperative Development Program focuses on joint U.S. and Japan development of a 21 inch diameter variant of the SM-3 missile. Delivery is scheduled for 2015. This missile and the Aegis BMD 5.1 Weapon System provide the capability to engage long range ballistic missiles. Aegis BMD 5.1.1 will contain the Sea-Based Terminal development, a more robust capability to defeat ballistic missiles in the terminal phase.
Through these future capabilities, Aegis BMD will remain continuously responsive and increasingly capable of defeating emerging threats.
Aegis BMD has broad international appeal. Eight countries are engaged in activities which include joint studies, research and development, as well as foreign military sales and allied participation in Aegis BMD flight tests.
The Government of Japan has purchased Aegis BMD for their four Aegis destroyers (KONGO, CHOKAI, MYOKO, and KIRISHIMA) through a formal Foreign Military Sales arrangement. Aegis BMD is the first MDA element to be purchased by a foreign country. JS KONGO was the first ship of Japan's fleet to be upgraded with the Aegis BMD Weapon System and also the first Japanese ship to fire an SM-3 missile, intercepting a medium range separating target in December 2007. All four Japanese destroyers have been upgraded with the BMD capability.
In addition to Japan, the Aegis Weapon System has been sold to several Allied countries including Spain, Norway, South Korea and Australia. By their procurement of the basic weapon system, these countries are investing in the prerequisites for a potential sea-based BMD capability.
Countries which do not have the Aegis Weapon System are also interested. The Royal Netherlands Navy ship HNLMS TROMP tested modifications to their Signal Multi-beam Acquisition Radar for Tracking – L (SMART-L) system when they participated in FTM-11 in December 2006.
As the success of Aegis BMD continues, more Allied Navies are actively participating in U.S. flight tests as preliminary training, proof-of-concept or pre-decisional test and training feasibility events to assess the potential of a sea-based missile defense capability. Japan, Spain and The Netherlands have all participated in Aegis BMD flight tests.