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Aegis, Missile Defense and the US Pivot (Page 3 of 3)

Aegis BMD is Key

What this all means is that a nascent regional missile defense capability based on the Aegis Weapon System is emerging across the Western Pacific. While developing piecemeal in 2014, given political, economic and other strategic issues that will have to be resolved, the fact remains that during the next decade a growing number of BMD-capable warships, all operated by close American treaty allies and sharing a common radar system, will be deployed to sea and able to conduct multi-national operations.

In March 2014, Vice Admiral James D. Syring, Director of the U.S. Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency, confirmed that the U.S. Navy had 30 BMD-capable Aegis ships in the fleet. In testimony to a House subcommittee, Syring said Aegis BMD capabilities will be incorporated into the Navy’s Aegis modernization program and new destroyers. By 2019, the U.S. Navy plans to have an operational availability of 43 BMD warships. The improved-performance SM-3 Block IIA missile, which the United States is co-developing with the Japanese government, and an upgraded version of the Aegis Weapons System, are on schedule for deployment in 2018.  The upgraded Aegis Weapons System combined with the faster, longer-range SM-3 IIA, will provide the capability to counter more sophisticated threats.

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Key to the entire concept of regional interoperable missile defense is Aegis, and more specifically the sequential ballistic missile upgrades that continue to be deployed across the Fleet. The latest version just now exiting its operational test and evaluation phase and to be deployed in coming years is designated Aegis BMD 5.0. This upgrade to Aegis is nested within the larger Baseline 9 capability package that will be deployed on all Navy Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers in the coming years.

Baseline 9 integrates BMD capabilities into the legacy Aegis anti-air warfare (AAW) computer program, thereby bringing those two separate missions into a single, fully integrated computer program and equipment suite.  The U.S. Navy calls this the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability. BL 9 Fleet Introduction is proceeding through a series of tests with the USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53), which will serve as the U.S. Navy’s lead IAMD-outfitted ship.  The ship’s BL 9 IAMD capabilities will serve as the foundation for future Aegis IAMD developments.  John Paul Jones went into dry dock in September 2012 for BL 9 installation, which is being co-funded by the Navy and the Missile Defense Agency.

The overall objective of IAMD is to enable the dynamic allocation of the ship’s finite computer resources to maximize BMD without degrading AAW defense.  Based on the tactical threat picture, IAMD dynamically allocates radar resources between AAW and BMD within this single computing environment.  A dynamic resource scheduler aggregates computing capacity across multiple servers to prevent bottlenecks and increase response time according to operational priorities.  For the first time, IAMD-equipped destroyers can conduct ship self-defense, strike group area air defense and ballistic missile defense missions simultaneously with full capability in all air/missile-defense domains—a major advance in Aegis defense against emerging air and missile threats.

The principal IAMD capability-enabler for BL 9 destroyers is the Multi-Mission Signal Processor (MMSP) for the SPY-1D radar. Earlier BMD computing suites for the radar used a separate signal processor, meaning a BMD-equipped surface warship could engage either a ballistic missile or an aircraft/cruise missile threat, but not both simultaneously. The new upgrades enable the SPY to go from a single-beam to dual-beam capability to meet the power resource priorities for simultaneous anti-air warfare and BMD sector coverage.  The MMSP’s up-to-date COTS hardware and software algorithms control radar waveform generation and allow for simultaneous processing of both AAW and BMD radar signals.  Critically, the MMSP improves SPY radar system performance in littoral environments, e.g., against sea skimmers in a high-clutter environment.  For BMD, the processor also enhances search and long-range surveillance and tracking and BMD signal processor range resolution, discrimination and characterization, as well as real-time capability displays.

The MMSP leverages the capability already provided by the third variant of the SPY-1D, the SPY-1D(V) Littoral Warfare Upgrade.  This upgrade replaced the SPY-1D in newly-constructed ships beginning in FY 1998 and started deploying in DDG 51 Flight IIA ships in 2002.  The SPY-1D(V) improves the radar’s capability against low-altitude, reduced radar cross-section targets in heavy clutter environments with intense electronic countermeasures.  Under development for installation in some Flight IIA ships, this upgrade has additional moving target indicator waveforms and a greater ability to counter deceptive electronic attack measures.

Catalyst for Greater Cooperation

“Our fleet should place a premium on certain operationally required attributes suggested by the character of the vast Pacific region and its security challenges,” naval strategist Frank Hoffman wrote in early July. “In particular, we need a fleet that has reach, endurance, and lethality…. We need a Navy Fighting Machine that deters competitors, reassures allies and friends and, when crisis erupts, can fight and win against a projected antagonist.”

Given the range of threats and strategic challenges in the Pacific, especially the rapid escalation in the range and sophistication of North Korea’s ballistic missiles, there is growing interest in missile defense. Since several nations––Japan, Korea and Australia––are already building new warships equipped with the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Weapon System, the idea of adding a BMD element into these ongoing programs is gaining greater attention. Doing so would increase cooperation among allies, deepen operational linkages and potentially lead to integrated operations where allied BMD-equipped warships can be seamlessly embedded in U.S. carrier strike groups or amphibious ready groups. That is a positive development for the entire region and will help promote presence, stability and engagement.

Robert Holzer is senior national security manager with Gryphon Technologies’ TeamBlue National Security Programs group.  Scott Truver is TeamBlue’s director.

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