The United States Navy (USN), the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), and the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) are conducting a missile defense exercise off the Korean peninsula this week, according to a U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) press release.
This so-called trilateral missile warning informational link exercise (LINKEX) kicked off on March 14 and will conclude the following day. The aim of the exercise is to “promote communications, interoperability, and partnership in the [USN] 7th Fleet area of operations,” the PACOM statement reads.
“The exercise will employ tactical data link systems to trade communications, intelligence, and other data among the ships in the exercise. It will allow participants to enhance tactical capabilities, increase self-defense, strengthen partnerships, and improved situational awareness.”
Participants of the exercise include three involved three Aegis system-equipped guided missile destroyers: the JMSDF Kongo-class JS Kirishima guided missile destroyer, the ROKN Sejong the Great-class multi-purpose destroyer Sejong the Great, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur.
No further details about the exercise were released.
As I noted elsewhere, the Aegis combat system is an automated command-and-control (C2) and weapons control system offering integrated air and missile defense capabilities to surface warships. The three ships participating in LINKEX are equipped with the so-called Aegis Combat System Baseline 9, specifically designed for ballistic missile defense. It also allows Aegis warships to receive targeting information from a third party. Furthermore, I elaborated on the Aegis combat system:
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. (…)
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 Aegis combat system is compatible with Raytheon’s Standard Missile (SM) series already in operation with the USN and JMSDF. ROKN is currently mulling procuring the missile system in one of its latest configurations.
The three navies held a similar three-day ballistic missile defense exercise in January 2017. Like this month, the aim of the exercise was to boost JMSDF, ROKN, and USN capabilities to detect and trace incoming North Korean missiles. A similar drill was held three times in 2016.