Deterrence. Preventing war is preferable to fighting wars. Deterring aggression must be viewed in global, regional, and transnational terms via conventional, unconventional, and nuclear means. Effective Theater Security Cooperation activities are a form of extended deterrence, creating security and removing conditions for conflict. Maritime ballistic missile defense will enhance deterrence by providing an umbrella of protection to forward-deployed forces and friends and allies, while contributing to the larger architecture planned for defense of the United States . . . We will use forward based and forward deployed forces, space-based assets, sea-based strategic deterrence and other initiatives to deter those who wish us harm.  – A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower (Oct 2007)

USS Lake Erie passes the USS Arizona Memorial

USS Lake Erie passes the USS Arizona Memorial

Longtime readers (all 2 of you) will remember when we wrote some two years ago about the first of the Aegis-CG’s being dispatched in a SINKEX at the ripe old age of 18 years.  Following the wholesale decommissioning of the Spruances and their dispatch in other SINKEX’s, some wondered aloud about the future of the remaining CG-47s and even the newer Burke-class DDGs.

Well, we have an answer – sort of.

There is an extensive plan being put into action to ensure a full 35 years of relevant operational service will be gained from the Burkes (assuming, of course, proper corrosion prevention and other PMS – comments Byron?) and the remaining Ticonderoga CG’s.  The program for the Burkes will begin in 2012 and will concentrate on Hull, Mechanical and Electrical repairs, to be followed by combat systems improvements.  First out of the chute will be Arleigh Burke and Barry, followed by 3 x DDGs/yr. until 2006 when it would accelerate to 9 ships per year.  What caught our eye in this re-work process was a commitment to convert the entire Burke class to BMD capability.  At present, the Navy & MDA are in the final stretch of converting 18 ships – 3 CG’s and 15 DDG’s, to BMD 3.6 engage which will mean 18 ships capable of employing the SM-3 Blk 1/1A against SR- and MRBM threats.  Later this year they will begin a further step/spiral upgrade to 3.6.1 which adds a terminal defense capability with the SM-2 Blk 4 to supplement shore-based terminal defenses.  Seventeen ships will get that mod while the Lake Erie, the BMD test and development platform, will begin receiving the next generation of BMD capability with the trial installation of BMD 4.0.1.  All but 2 of those sips are based with PACFLT (3rd or 7th Fleets) with the remainder on the East Coast.

That disparity is one reason why we have advocated for a wider deployment of the BMD configuration to the DDG-51 class (and to the CG’s as well – more on that later).  There are compelling reasons.  The ballistic missile threat to our deployed forces and friends, allies and partners overseas grows – at present it is concentrated in short- and medium range heater systems, but as we have consistently noted, there are major actors who continue to develop longer ranged theater systems with a natural developmental process that can reach to intercontinental capabilities sooner rather than later.  Still, the bulk of the threat in the near and mid-range term (now to say the next 5 years) is primarily in the theater.

USS Decatur

USS Decatur

To be sure, there are shore-based systems, some proven and deployed, others in development, but like so many other shore-based systems, there are limits in mobility, footprint, deployability, host-nation restrictions and the like which circumscribe their utility.

Not so for BMD capable ships operating from the global maritime commons.  Using their inherent flexibility, maritime forces employing integrated and combined maritime air- and missile defense will provide a powerful deterrent and if that deterrence is ignored, a capable and credible defense – if…

If there are enough numbers.  Enough numbers meaning hulls and missiles.  For it does no good to concentrate the capability in a relatively small number of hulls.  On the one hand, it turns them instantly into high(er) value units whose loss wold have a disproportionate effect.  Numbers limit coverage and COA’s a COCOM can deploy and employ.  Numbers also play to just how fast you end up Winchester, for make no mistake, the competition is very much working on building numbers into their side of the balance sheet.  Finally, there is also the practical side of only x-amount of real estate in the VLS’ which must also be occupied with vanilla SAM’s, Tomahawks, and other ordnance as required by these multi-mission platforms.

So, what about the remaining CG’s?  Well, there’s the rub.  Older already than the oldest DDG-51, the CG-47s are also slated for similar HME repairs, but as of now the decision to upgrade all 22 of them to BMD capability is up in the air.  Money, of course, being the driving factor as well as the fate of the CG(X), CONOPS for which the Navy is still holding tight to its chest, but intimates quite openly will have BMD as a primary mission.

In the final analysis, the need, the requirement for a wider deployment of this capability is just as compelling today, looking to the near future as it was a few decades ago when the growing cruise-missile threat compelled the wider installation of area and point-defenses on a greater number of platforms – not just special purpose AAW cruisers.  Likewise, the Fleet needs to become as conversant in the language of BMD as it is in all aspects of AAW.  The time to start is now.

USS Curtis Wilbur

USS Curtis Wilbur


  1. Smoking in a HAZMAT space. CO and XO relieved. Sad and $70M in (unplanned) tax dollars.

    Left this at Lex, Eagle1 and here…

  2. With all due respect, I agree that BMD should be a capability that should be present on all CG’s and DDG’s. The dollar cost is going to be expensive and I also submit that it still does not solve the problem of not enough ships.

    Plus on a more personal note, I would hate to have even more of the Navy subject to having to grovel to MDA………. 😯

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