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Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (Aegis BMD)

While AEGIS was originally optimized for blue water operations against Soviet bomber raids, this system brings unprecedented capabilities to the fight to new wars and new enemiese. In today's fight, AEGIS is a sword and shield that enables America to command the sea, control the littoral, project power ashore, and safeguard troops and allies from growing threats like ballistic missiles.

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System is a US Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency program developed to provide a last line of defense against ballistic missiles. Aegis BMD (also know as Sea-Based Midcourse) is designed to intercept ballistic missiles post-boost phase and prior to reentry. It builds upon the Aegis Weapon System with the AN/SPY-1 radar and Standard missile technologies. Aegis BMD equipped vessels can transmit their target detection information to the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system, and/or engage potential threats using the SM-3.

US Navy interest in anti-ballistic missiles operations dates back to 1965 when the RIM-2 Terrier and RIM-24 Tartar anti-aircraft missiles were test fired against Corporal and Redstone missiles. While some of those tests were successful, the capability was not exploited.

The current effort to deploy Aegis ballistic missile defense (ABMD) was kindled in the mid 1980s as part of President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The SDI plan initially called for a space based rail gun system. However, due to technological constraints, the system was transformed into a surface based system know as the Lightweight Exo-atmospheric Projectile (LEAP). The original testing of the LEAP took place as part of the Army LEAP program. Later SDIO worked with the Navy to test the LEAP on the Terrier missile. The TERRIER LEAP demonstration program lasted from the 1991 through 1993 and consisted of five flight tests. Two of these were intercept tests.

In the late 1990s the US Navy was tasked to provide a weapon system for exploratory testing of LEAP. This phase was designated the Aegis LEAP Intercept (ALI) program. The program called for 2 successful intercepts in 5 attempts. On June 13, 2002 the second successful ALI intercept occurred during the FM-3 flight test mission. Initial Aegis BMD success may have contributed to President George W. Bush's decision to deploy an emergency ballistic missile capability by late 2004.

Upon the completion of the ALI program, Aegis BMD was transitioned to the production phase. The first Block I production SM-3 was delivered in October 2004 and the Aegis 3.0 update was delivered in 2005. Current Aegis BMD hardware includes the SM-3 Block-1a missile and other improvements to the Aegis Weapons System. Future development of the Aegis BMD system includes Launch on Remote capability, upgraded SM-3 avionics and hardware and an upgraded Aegis Weapon System.

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (Aegis BMD) mission is to deliver an enduring, operationally effective and supportable Ballistic Missile Defense Capability in Aegis cruisers and destroyers to defend the nation, deployed forces, friends and allies, and to incrementally increase this capability by delivering evolutionary spiral improvements as part of BMDS block upgrades. The Aegis BMD element of the BMDS builds upon the existing Aegis Weapons System (AWS) and Standard Missile (SM) infrastructures deployed in Aegis cruisers and destroyers.

As of June 2006, the US Navy had equipped 3 Ticonderoga class cruisers, the USS Lake Erie, USS Shiloh and USS Port Royal, with anti-ballistic missile capability. At that time the US Navy was converting 15 additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to incorporate the Aegis BMD capability. These ships include: USS John Paul Jones, and USS Russell, USS Ramage, USS Milius and USS Decatur. A total of 3 cruisers and 15 destroyers were scheduled to have BMD capability by 2009.

As of 2008, Aegis BMD was to deliver the following:

  • Fifteen (15) Aegis Destroyers equipped with the Aegis BMD Weapon System to conduct the LRS&T and engagement missions
  • Three (3) Aegis Cruisers equipped with the Aegis BMD Weapon System to conduct the LRS&T and engagement missions SM-3
  • Missile Deliveries - To Be Used for Testing and/or Deployment
    • Eleven (11) SM-3 Block I missiles
    • One (1) "Pathfinder" SM-3 Block IA Flight Test Round (FTR)
    • One (1) "Pathfinder" SM-3 Block IB Flight Test Round (FTR)
    • Eighty two (82) SM-3 Block IA missiles
    • Fifty two (52) SM-3 Block IB missiles

Aegis BMD provides a forward deployable, mobile capability to detect and track Ballistic Missiles of all ranges, and the ability to destroy Short-Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM), Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM), Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), and selected long-range class threats in the midcourse phase of flight. Spiral upgrades to both the Aegis BMD Weapon System and the SM-3 configurations will enable Aegis BMD to provide effective, supportable defensive capability against more difficult threats, including Long Range Ballistic Missiles (LRBMs).

In support of Block 1.0 objectives to defend the U.S. from limited long-range threats, Aegis BMD provides a Long Range Surveillance and Track (LRS&T) capability to the BMDS against Ballistic Missile threats of all ranges, supporting GMD engagements. In support of Block 2.0 objectives to defend allies and deployed forces from short- to medium-range threats in one region or theater, Aegis BMD provides initial engagement capability against SRBM to MRBM-class threats. Aegis BMD is fielding the Block 2.0 capability in two spirals: The first spiral provides an initial engagement capability against SRBMs and MRBMs on Aegis BMD cruisers with the BMD 3.0 Weapon System and SM-3 Block I missile that can be used for emergency activation; Spiral two provides an operationally certified LRS&T and engagement capability on Aegis BMD cruisers and destroyers configured with the BMD 3.6 Weapon System which is capable of firing SM-3 Block I and IA missiles using organic and external sensors.

In response to Real World Events, Aegis BMD is developing and fielding an integrated near-term Sea Based Terminal (SBT) capability against a finite set of Short Range Ballistic Missiles, also as part of BMDS Block 2.0. BMD 3.6.1 will incorporate a fuze modified SM-2 Block IV missile provided by a separate OPNAV sponsored effort and will build on BMD 3.6 to provide a capability (BMD 3.6.1) against additional threats. The updated BMD 3.6.1 will continue efforts to refine Aegis Launch on AN/TPY-2 and will bridge the gap between the operational deployment of BMD 3.6 and BMD 4.0.1.

In support of Block 5.0 objectives to expand defense of allies and deployed forces from short- to intermediate-range threats in two regions or theaters, Aegis BMD is providing several capabilities: BMD 4.0.1 improves system effectiveness against an expanding threat set to include a fielded capability against some IRBM and long-range threats. This will be achieved by means of modifications to the Weapon System (BMD 4.0/4.0.1) that focus on the new RF discrimination and tracking capability, and an upgraded SM-3 guided missile. The Aegis BMD 4.0/4.0.1 Weapon System will include the Aegis BMD Signal Processor (BSP), and integrate an updated variant of the SM-3 (SM-3 Block IB) to improve overall system performance and discrimination capability. The SM-3 Block IB configuration includes a performance-enhancing two-color IR seeker, and a Throttleable Divert and Attitude Control System (TDACS), which provides performance and manufacturing improvements at a lower per-unit cost. The initial capability (BMD 4.0) will be delivered with the SM-3 Block IA missile. BMD 4.0.1 will be an operationally certified system firing either the SM-3 Block IA or IB missile.

Additionally in support of Block 5.0, Aegis BMD will integrate the BMD mission with the Navy-developed Open Architecture system in order to preserve the sea-based BMD capability as Navy ship modernization plans are executed. The new configuration of the Aegis BMD Weapon System (BMD 5.0) will transition from older, MIL-standard computers to new Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) computing plants. This integration will allow ships' operators to conduct combat missions with a single set of tactical computer programs running on the same computer system. This change will enhance display features and eliminate the need for a separate computing system specific to the BMD mission. This will enable Aegis BMD to maintain compatibility with Surface Navy ships and align with the Navy's modernization plan, while also expanding the number of ships available to serve as potential candidates for the BMD mission. Future fielded Aegis BMD system improvements will be built in this new architecture.




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