Asia Defense

US to Upgrade Japanese and South Korean Destroyers With Latest Combat System

Japanese and South Korean destroyers are to receive the latest variant of the Aegis Combat System.

US to Upgrade Japanese and South Korean Destroyers With Latest Combat System

Aegis ships USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), USS Shoup (DDG 86), Japan’s Chokai (DDG 176), the Republic of Korea’s Sejung The Great (DDG 991) and Gang Gam Chan (DDH 979) steam in formation during exercise Pacific Dragon 2016 in June.

Credit: Lockheed Martin

U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin will equip two Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyers and three new Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) ships with the latest variant of the Aegis Combat System under a $490 million deal, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on August 12. The contract also includes upgrades for the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class shipbuilding program and is expected to be completed in 2022.

Two JMSDF Atago-class ships–improved variants of the Kongo-class of guided missile destroyers—and three ROKN KDX-III Sejong the Great-class multi-purpose destroyers will be equipped with the Aegis Baseline 9 Combat System, according to a Lockheed Martin press release. The contract follows a successful joint missile defense exercise in June off Hawaii, which involved Aegis destroyers from the United States, South Korea, and Japan (See: “US, Japan, South Korea Conduct Joint Missile Drill”).

“Lockheed Martin has a proud record of working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Navy, Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces, and the Republic of Korea Navy,” said Jim Sheridan, director of Lockheed Martin Aegis U.S. Navy programs. “We will continue the Lockheed Martin tradition of providing Aegis on-time and on-budget so these destroyers are prepared to meet the evolving demands of securing the U.S. homeland and its allies.”

Aegis Baseline 9, like previous Aegis variants, is an automated command-and-control (C2) and weapons control system offering integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) capabilities to surface warships. The heart of the Aegis Combat System is the AN/SPY-1—“the Navy’s most advanced multi-function radar system,” according to Lockheed Martin. It is an advanced, automatic detect and track, multi-function phased-array radar system.

“This high-powered radar is able to perform search, track, and missile guidance functions simultaneously, with a track capacity of more than 100 targets,” according to the U.S. Navy. “When paired with the MK 41 Vertical Launching System, it is capable of delivering missiles for every mission and threat environment in naval warfare,” Lockheed Martin claims. This includes anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare.

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Aegis Baseline 9 offers a number of improvements from previous versions of the combat system. “The Aegis Combat System Baseline 9.C1 offers unprecedented capabilities, including simultaneous air and ballistic missile defense,” Sheridan, the Lockheed Martin director of Aegis programs, said in January. “This Aegis baseline also improves Aegis networking capabilities, allowing Aegis vessels to automatically coordinate defense with input from satellite and ground-based radar assets—forming a true shield of defense over a wide area.”

The JMSDF currently operates six Aegis-equipped surface warships, whereas the ROKN  three Aegis destroyers–  the largest surface warfare ships to carry the Aegis Combat System. In July, the U.S. State Department also approved the possible sale of 246 Raytheon SM-2 Block IIIB standard missiles to Japan for its fleet of Aegis destroyers (See: “US Clears Sale of Advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles to Japan”).