All posts in “Aegis BMD”

What We’re Reading – And Why

The Current "Stack of Shame"

A quick look at the sidebar will reveal a variety and number of books read over the course of the past year, oft times engendering discussions off-site as to selections and purpose.  Looking at the current working stack on my desk, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk to why these particular selections.

My first read of Kissinger’s book got me thinking about deterrence theories that emerged during the Cold War, how they were put on the shelf 20 years ago when the Soviet Union disappeared and now, how some folks think we can just pull them off the shelf and apply them to China.  Problem is, not only do I think those theories may not apply, they may in fact, carry us down avenues with results quite different than we intended.  Part of my studies and work on theater nuclear forces was grounded in a better understanding of Russian culture as applied to Soviet deterrence practices across a range of operations, theaters and levels of war.  That I ended up disagreeing with the prevailing (at the time) school of thought shouldn’t come as a surprise to readers here – and neither should my initial thoughts laid out above vis-a-vis China.  This isn’t just in the nuclear arena, but even more so conventional as we look at the array of advanced anti-access/area denial forces being fielded by China, employable outside of a conflict over Taiwan.  So – I’m taking a historical perspective/approach looking at China’s actions in a conventional realm versus near peer (conventional) powers and major nuclear power.  There is a pattern that points to an offensive deterrence that, during a confrontation, has led to fairly aggressive actions that incurred substantive losses on the other party’s account, followed by a rapid withdrawal from overrun territory by Chinese forces to show occupation wasn’t their intent.  A noteworthy element of these actions though, and one that must be factored into the analysis is that these case histories stem from Mao’s reign and a PLA that was short on technology and long on manpower (ground forces) which runs counter to the decade-long modernization and overhaul in doctrine and operations (epitomized, for example, by the development and wide deployment of a range of conventional ballistic missiles).  Additionally, while most of the Party leadership were veterans of the Long March and Korea and as such, had experience with military operations, today’s Party leadership has at best, passing acquaintance with military operations and requirements.  In such a scenario, will there be more deference given plan and COAs sourced from the military — IOW, a tendency to accept at face value n the part of Party leadership?  As I delve into this issue, these are some of the questions I am asking myself and which form the entering argument with the publications above.

  • Russia, NATO BMD and the INF Treaty:
Nervov, RSVN (Strategic Missile Troops) Missile Complexes Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty; Text and Annexes National Defense University, Case Studies: U.S. Withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty Podvig, Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces Stav, The Threat of Ballistic Missiles in the Middle East

When the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002, there was a varied response from Russia, ranging from Putin’s non-committal “do what you must” to statements from the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff that Russia would investigate dropping out of the INF Treaty.  In the intervening years since, this threat was rolled out on various occasions when the Russians wanted to highlight their concern over various aspects of the US efforts to develop and deploy ballistic missile defense.  Since the initial announcement of the European Initiative in 2007  (basing 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, supported by an X-band radar in the Czech Republic) it has become a recurring theme, in concert with “other military-technical means.”  This begs a couple of questions – namely, what are the real motivations behind the rhetoric, what real benefits would Russia accrue in stepping away from the first bi-lateral nuclear treaty that banned an entire class of weapons and set the stage for the START treaties on strategic nuclear forces and, in an age of growing numbers of ballistic missiles, nuclear and conventional, inhabiting the 500-5500km range (essentially longer ranged SRBM, MRBM and IRBMs as well as ground-launched cruise missiles), is the INF Treaty still relevant?  Part of the investigation includes a deep dive into the developmental history of Russian ballistic missiles with particular attention being paid to one of my old haunts — the period 1976-1987 and the impetus behind the development and deployment behind the SS-20/Pioneer IRBM.  As noteworthy as the political, military and engineering decision-making behind Pioneer’s development and controversial deployment was, there were two other programs – Skorost (“Speed”) and Kuryer (“Courier”) which bear investigation.  Each program was the result of a deliberate decision to respond to the Pershing II/GLCM deployment (itself a response to the SS-20 deployment) with new ballistic missile systems (or in the Russian vernacular, missile complexes), derived from (then) new mobile strategic systems like the SS-25 and aimed specifically at the systems the US was deploying to strengthen the nuclear guarantee to NATO.  The impetus behind this is to see if there are parallels between then and now that may predict or explain certain behaviors and statements from Russian leadership in the current dispute over the US-led European Phased Adaptive Approach to ballistic missile defense against the Iranian ballistic missile threat.

It is popular to talk about the “global economy” in referential terms as if it is a late-20th Century/21st Century phenomena.  In actuality, beginning with the return of Columbus from the 1492 expedition, profound ecological and economic wheels were put into motion – almost all of which had unforeseen consequences.  Mann’s work is a masterful, scientific review of the “Colombian Exchange” and later, the impact the founding of Manila some 80 years later by the Spanish explorer Legazpi would have on not only Europe, but the American and African continents that stretch into today.  Economist Miller (author of “War Plan Orange”) turns to recently declassified documents to take another look at attempts by the US to dissuade Japan from its aggression in China in the run-up to Pearl Harbor.  Building on his experience in international trade while working for a major mining company, he brings new perspectives on the role international finance had in influencing Japanese decision-making and actions — and in the process spurred a branches & sequels process that led to the Pacific war.  While far from finished with Bankrupting the Enemy, I think those who would argue for a trade war/currency war today with China would be well advised to consider Miller’s work and a look at the unintended consequences (as well as what a bureaucracy can do to thwart Presidential initiatives) that may result.  Both authors have a compelling writing style that addresses head on, complex ideas and concepts, placing them in a thoroughly comprehensible context – something, unfortunately, that cannot be said about some the preceding texts which can verge on the turgidly pedagogical….

And finally, there is reading just for the simple pleasure of a story well told, even if it is of an event that has been as widely dissected and told as that of Midway.  One of the vehicles used under such conditions is historical fiction and a new entry in that genre is Vengeance Strikes the Blow, written by G. Alvin Simons and published by Cripple Creek Press:

 Excerpt from the book:

    Kusaka staggered a few steps as Akagi turned toward the approaching enemy aircraft presenting a smaller target. He watched as three of the battered, tattered medium bombers continued winging toward the carriers intent on launching their torpedoes. Frantic Zeroes, having retreated earlier from the tremendous volume of friendly gunfire belching forth from the screening vessels, now ignored the threat. They dove in, blasting away at the deadly intruders.

    The deep Pacific waters already littered with destroyed enemy aircraft, Kusaka wondered at the Americans’ tenacity. We slaughter them with ease, yet still they come, he thought. Seemingly oblivious to the certain death awaiting them. Almost contemptuous in their disregard for our defense. Are they arrogant? Stubborn? Fools? What kind of men are these?

The lead aircraft closed to within a thousand meters before releasing its torpedo. It splashed down and disappeared from view, running toward its intended target. The unburdened plane skittered away across the wave tops with enraged Zeroes hounding its tail. Kusaka’s eyesight remained locked in place, waiting for the weapon to reappear when it neared Akagi.
    The huge ship made another hard turn, veering away from the oncoming torpedo. Kusaka lurched sideways into Genda, releasing a groan of pain from the young officer. The torpedo chugged past, missing the carrier and leaving a trail of bubbles in its wake. Cheers and clapping drifted on the combat-torn wind, falling silent as the second enemy plane bore in. The defensive gunfire increased in volume. A mountain of shot and steel sought to destroy the attacking aircraft. Amidst the panicked frenzy and close quarters, friendly fire struck neighboring vessels. Kusaka winced at the number of stray rounds zipping between the ships. This is utter madness, he thought. We could be wounded or killed at the hands of our fellow countrymen.

Haven’t had much of a chance to get too far in, but what I have read so far I like and it is getting good reviews in important venues like the Battle of Midway Roundtable; definitely a recommended buy (available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions).

So that’s were the end of 2011 and the (near) start to 2012 finds us — some of the research will find its way here, but the bulk is for other venues.  I will be interested to see what is in the offering for the new year (book-wise) and am interested in what you are reading as well as why – let’s hear what’s on your Stack of Shame!

w/r, SJS

IAMD Acquisition Updates: E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and SM-3 Blk IIB

Couple of developments in the last week with regards to major systems in our Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) plans for the coming decades:

Item: The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has awarded concept definition contracts to three teams competing for the SM-3 Block IIB advanced interceptor (aka: Next Generation Aegis Missile (NGAM)). Designed to intercept longer range IR and ICBMs, the SM-3 Blk IIB will be deployed from Aegis Ashore sites, first as part of the European Phase Adaptive Approach (EPAA), Phase IV and eventually from Aegis BMD configured CGs and DDGs. Boeing, Lockheed and Raytheon were the awardees for this phase which will define and assess viable and affordable missile configurations, conduct trade studies, and define an executable development plan for the new missile. Work will be performed through Dec 2013 with deployment at decade’s end.

The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 (VX-20) catches the arresting wire aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during carrier qualifications testing.    (Photo via Northrop Grumman)

Item: Funding approved for an additional 10 E-2D aircraft:

BETHPAGE, N.Y., April 14, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Following a successful Defense Acquisition Board review, funding for an additional 10 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft has been authorized. The authorization comes just a short time after the Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC)-built E-2D made its first carrier landing, aboard the USS Harry S. Truman. An Acquisition Decision Memorandum, signed by Dr. Ashton Carter, undersecretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, validates that the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program is continuing to successfully execute all cost and schedule requirements and is on track to enter Initial Operational Test and Evaluation later this year.

“This is a significant milestone for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program,” said Jim Culmo, vice president, airborne early warning and battle management command and control programs, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector. “The entire Advanced Hawkeye team continues to work tirelessly to meet the commitments we’ve made to our U.S. Navy customer. Delivering this advanced capability, on time and on cost, continues a legacy that began more than 50 years ago and ushers in a new era in airborne early warning and battle management command and control.”

“The E-2D continues the Navy’s integrated warfighting legacy by providing broad area coverage resulting in increased range capabilities,” said Capt. Shane Gahagan, Hawkeye-Greyhound program manager, U.S. Navy. “With the E-2D’s enhanced ability to work in the littoral areas and over land, the platform provides a critical capability to protect our nation’s interests.”

The Navy’s program of record is for a total of 75 aircraft, with deliveries through 2021.

“As the Navy celebrates its Centennial of Navy Aviation, Northrop Grumman continues to be committed to providing this critical first line of defense well into the 21st century,” said Culmo.

To date, Northrop Grumman has delivered five E-2D aircraft to the Navy and production on the 10th aircraft recently began at Northrop Grumman’s East Coast Manufacturing and Flight Test Center in St. Augustine, Fla.

Sea-Based BMD — Another Successful Test

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) launches an SM-3 Blk 1A for FTM-15 (source:


Another test of the SM-3 Blk 1A was successfully completed last night with the intercept of an IRBM-class target:

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), U.S. Navy sailors aboard the Aegis destroyer USS O’KANE (DDG 77), and Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command operating from the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System, resulting in the intercept of a separating ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean. This successful test demonstrated the capability of the first phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) announced by the President in September, 2009.

At 2:52 a.m. EDT (6:52 p.m. April 15 Marshall Island Time), an intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Reagan Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, approximately 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. The target flew in a northeasterly direction towards a broad ocean area in the Pacific Ocean. Following target launch, a forward-based AN/TPY-2 X-band transportable radar, located on Wake Island, detected and tracked the threat missile. The radar sent trajectory information to the Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) system, which processed and transmitted remote target data to the USS O’KANE. The destroyer, located to the west of Hawaii, used the data to develop a fire control solution and launch the SM-3 Block IA missile approximately 11 minutes after the target was launched.

As the IRBM target continued along its trajectory, the firing ship’s AN/SPY-1 radar detected and acquired the ballistic missile target. The firing ship’s Aegis BMD weapon system uplinked target track information to the SM-3 Block IA missile. The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space as designated by the fire control solution and released its kinetic warhead. The kinetic warhead acquired the target, diverted into its path, and, using only force of a direct impact, destroyed the threat in a “hit-to-kill” intercept.

During the test the C2BMC system, operated by Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, received data from all assets and provided situational awareness of the engagement to U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command.

The two demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites (STSS), launched by MDA in 2009, successfully acquired the target missile, providing stereo “birth to death” tracking of the target.

Today’s event, designated Flight Test Standard Missile-15 (FTM-15), was the most challenging test to date, as it was the first Aegis BMD version 3.6.1 intercept against an intermediate-range target (range 1,864 to 3,418 miles) and the first Aegis BMD 3.6.1 engagement relying on remote tracking data. The ability to use remote radar data to engage a threat ballistic missile greatly increases the battle space and defended area of the SM-3 missile.

Initial indications are that all components performed as designed. Program officials will spend the next several months conducting an extensive assessment and evaluation of system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

FTM-15 is the 21st successful intercept, in 25 attempts, for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002. Across all BMDS elements, this is the 45th successful hit-to-kill intercept in 58 flight tests since 2001.

Aegis BMD is the sea-based midcourse component of the MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System and is designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program.

This test in essence replicates what Phase I of the European Phased Adaptive Approach will be capable of in final form — a sea-based SM-3 Blk 1A intercept of MRBM/IRBM class missiles with cueing from a forward-based sensor (here the TPY-2).  The lead element of Phase I, the sea-based element, is already deployed with the scheduled deployment of the USS Monterey (CG 61) earlier this year on BMD patrol.  Worth emphasizing is that while deployed on BMD patrol, Monterey is nonetheless still capable of multiple missions, of which BMD is one, demonstrating the flexibility of these mobile, sea-based units.

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) (via

Aegis BMD: “Build a Little, Test a Little, Learn a Lot”

Rear Admiral Meyer’s philosophy of “Build a Little, Test a Little, Learn a Lot” drove the testing and milestones of the Aegis system. Having witnessed problems with existing missile systems related to a lack of testing, tests that incorporated too many objectives, and failed system integration efforts requiring massive “get well” programs, he drove the project to conduct numerous tests in development and in delivery of production gear prior to ship installation.
That philosophy carried over into the sea-based ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, using the Aegis weapons system at its core. The following are scenes from the development of Aegis BMD — from the designing board to sea.  A clear example of the results of following that philosophy may be seen in the sequence of test shots over the final two minutes of the film — the early intercepts aimed for the center of mass of the target.  As the tests progressed, watch how the aim point is walked forward towards the harder to hit but more important (simulated) warhead section of the target:

BMDR Release and BMD Deployments to the Gulf

Gulf BMD Deployments

Lots in the news today – let’s start in the Gulf:

US officials have let it be known that it now has Patriot batteries in four Gulf states – Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. US anti-missile ships are also being stationed in the Gulf.  All this comes as the impasse over Iran’s nuclear activities continues and amid efforts by the US and other Western countries to increase sanctions on Iran. (BBC)

The outreached hand has obviously been slapped away once too often.  Iran’s continued intransigence on the nuclear issue combined with its growing inventory of ballistic missiles poses an implicit threat to the region.  PAC-3 battery’s deployed to the four GCC states provide a tangible, visible presence on the ground with regional friends and partners.  BMD configured cruisers and destroyers, armed with SM-3s extend that reassurance with a measure of deterrence for the region with their ability to intercept longer range MRBMs in the Iranian inventory.

All of this falls into two of the four priority objectives outlined in the 2010 QDR, released today:

  • Prevail in Today’s Conflicts
  • Prevent and Deter Conflict
  • Prepare to defeat adversaries and succeed in a wide range of contingencies
  • Preserve and enhance the All-Volunteer Force

Still, there are some who think that such a response will only strengthen the hand of extremists in Iran, emboldening them to crack down even harder on dissidents in general and the Green revolution in particular.  The line of thought is that the hardliners believe that the absence of a viable alternative to the current rulers will prevent the West (and the US in particular) from effecting regime change as it did in Iraq.  To wit, having observed Saddam survive the West’s repulsion of Iraqi forces in Kuwait (and suffering substantial damage at home to boot), only to be overthrown later in OIF the lesson they took away was Saddam survived the first encounter because the West believed there was no viable alternative government to take his place.  Now, with a hardening of the US stance (ref: President Obama’s mention of growing consequences if Iran did not comply with UN resolutions) and apparent increase of forces in the region (“missiles are missiles and warships are warships whether their intent is defensive or not”) this might be the time to come down even harder, scattering those who would support Moussavi and thus insulate themselves from a US-led invasion.

Bit of a stretch, to be sure.  But then, the survival instinct is a dominant feature not only in nature, but in politics too – especially in regimes characterized by tyrannical rule.

In the meantime, the deployment of BMD ships to the Gulf also offers us the opportunity to look at the BMDR —

2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review

The stated intent of the BMDR is to align U.S. missile defense posture with near-term regional missile threats, and sustain the ability to defend the homeland against limited long-range missile attack.  In essence, this formalizes the change in direction announced last September by the Obama Administration and categorized under the so-called Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) for Europe.  The PAA (or EPAA as it is known in some circles) stepped away from a GBI system deployed in Europe (mid-course radar in the Czech Republic and 10 2-stage GBIs based in Poland) to one more focused on meeting the extant threat presented by MR- and IRBMs to our European friends and allies using tested and proven systems, like Aegis BMD.  That shift however, did not place the current BMDS providing protection to the homeland in a decommissioned state.  In fact, under the BMDR’s terms, that system can and will continue – with some provisos.

Supporting that change are six precepts that will serve to guide and direct US policy for development and deployment of missile defenses.  Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, today described those six major priorities  at a Pentagon news conference:

The first goes to the heart of defense and that is to defend the United States from a limited ballistic missile attack. The second is to defend against growing regional threats. A third priority is “to test new systems under realistic conditions before they’re deployed to ensure their effectiveness,” Flournoy said. The fourth priority is to develop new fiscally sustainable capabilities, while the fifth is to develop flexible capabilities that can adapt as threats evolve. Finally, the United States wants to lead expanded international cooperation on missile defense, she said.

“We believe this approach will provide reassurance to our allies that the United States will stand by our security commitments to them,” Flournoy said, “and will help to negate the coercive potential of regional actors attempting to limit U.S. influence and actions in key regions.”

It’s been said before on these pages that ballistic missiles have been a growth industry this past decade and the trend line has a positive slope to it.  Not only are numbers increasing, but so too are ranges and sophistication.  The old SCUDs of Gulf War I are rapidly being supplanted by solid propellant, mobile long-range missiles that have the payload and throw-weight for a variety of WMD, not least of which could be nuclear.  Kinetic kill missile defenses remain but one (albeit an important one) way to defeat that threat.  The BMDR looks to guide and direct efforts in that direction too as well as bringing others onboard in a a cooperative approach to defense.  According to Flournoy, Russia and China (the latter one of the more egregious proliferators of missile technologies) factored into the review with an eye towards engaging them on a strategic level.

For now, color me skeptical on that point…

BMDR as of 26JAN10 0630_for Web

E-2D Update: Progress Report and Hawkeye BMD?


A program update on the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye was provided today at the AEW and Battle Management conference in Amsterdam. Providing the update was Northrop-Grumman’s VP for AEW &BM C2 programs, Jim Culmo and Hawkeye/Greyhound Program Manager, CAPT Shane Gahagan, USN.

Culmo noted that the company is on-track to deliver three pilot production E-2Ds to the U.S. Navy in 2010 and that manufacturing of the first two Low-Rate Initial Production aircraft is also progressing well. “We’re exceedingly pleased with where we are in the flight test program,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Shane Gahagan, Hawkeye Greyhound program manager. “The AN/APY-9 radar is performing very well and will bring to the fleet a significantly increased ability to operate in a highly cluttered environment while providing critical 360-degree coverage.”

The E-2D was designed to provide the warfighter with enhanced capabilities required to meet emerging threats such as low-flying ASCMs in the high clutter near- and overland environment.  With the newly developed AN/APY-9 Electronic Scan Array (ESA) radar, Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) system, Electronic Support Measures (ESM), and off-board sensors, in concert with surface combatants equipped with the Aegis combat system, the E-2D will have the capability to detect, track, and defeat cruise missile threats at extended ranges. It will also provide unparalleled maritime domain awareness including airspace control for manned and unmanned assets, monitoring of surface movements, civil support, and command and control of tactical forces.

The combined radar modes work together to provide continuous, 360-degree air and surface scanning capability, allowing flight operators to focus the radar on select areas of interest. “The AN/APY-9 can ‘see’ smaller targets and more of them at a greater range than currently fielded radar systems,” Culmo said. He added that the E-2D’s systems, including radar long-range detection, “are exceeding key performance specifications.”

Which brings me to a point of interest.  Given the direction MDA is headed in expanding our BMD capabilities at the theater and regional levels by looking at alternative platforms and capabilities – such as ISR assets like UAVs to improve I&W, perhaps it ought to widen the aperture a bit and look at the capabilities the E-2D is bringing to the fight?  One of the hallmarks of missile defense is the wide-ranging field of play within which the threat is engaged.  As such, BMD cannot be platform-centric since we re fast approaching the point where the interceptors will outrange their supporting sensors (when launched from the same platform).  Instead, BMD, especially the sea-based adjunct, will become a complex fire control system made up of netted sensors and shooters.

Now, look again at the quote above – “The combined radar modes work together to provide continuous, 360-degree air and surface scanning capability, allowing flight operators to focus the radar on select areas of interest.”  That is the advantage of an ESA.  The ability to manage the radar energy is literally light years ahead of what we had in the E-2C.  In a theater fight, it makes me wonder what capabilities it might bring for detNorthrop Grummanection of mobile platforms and the launch/boost phase of SR/MRBMs — what capabilities the E-2D’s advanced networking might bring to networking shooters that are BVR of one another and yet not dependent on what are becoming increasingly vulnerable satellite-based networks.

To be sure, the dance card for the Advanced Hawkeye is likely already crowded and on a relative scale, advanced cruise missiles are a greater threat in a larger sense to US and allied naval forces – for now.  Nevertheless, it would pay huge dividends down the road if we found a nascent BMD capability already resident in the system, or, one that could be coaxed forth with relatively smaller expenditures of capital.  The force multiplier effect in combination with sea- and eventually, shore-based Aegis BMD could conceivably pay huge dividends.

How about it MDA?  Navy?

(Source: Northrop Grumman)

Crossposted at USNI blog

Speaking of Ascent Phase Intercept…

fm-4_logo_final1As early as November 2002, the Navy demonstrated an ascent-phase intercept capability using an SM-3 launched from USS Lake Erie (CG 70) to intercept a SCUD-like target vehicle launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, as MDA test FM-4, codenamed Stellar Viper.  The test objectives and knowledge points gained were set forth in the contemporary press release from MDA:

“Flight Mission-4 (FM-4) involved the firing of a developmental Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) from the Aegis ballistic missile defense cruiser USS LAKE ERIE (CG-70) to fm47engage a ballistic missile target launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.

The target was launched at 2:30 p.m. (HST)/ 7:30 p.m. (EST). The USS LAKE ERIE equipped with Aegis BMD computer programs and equipment, developed a fire control solution without any external sensor inputs. Within two minutes after target launch, USS LAKE ERIEÕs Aegis Weapon System fired the SM-3 guided missile. Approximately two minutes later, the missile’s Kinetic Warhead acquired, tracked, and diverted into the target, demonstrating the Aegis BMD system’s capability to engage the ballistic missile target in the ascent phase. This was the third consecutive target intercept flight, demonstrating Aegis BMD system robustness.

The primary objective of this test was to demonstrate the Aegis BMD system capability to intercept the ballistic missile target in the ascent phase of flight. Extensive engineering evaluation data was collected for analyses in preparation for future flight tests. Project officials will evaluate the data and incorporate changes as required.

FM-4 marks the beginning of a six flight test series to develop an emergency deployment sea based ballistic missile defense against short to medium range ballistic missiles. FM-4 is the first developmental flight test against more complex and stressing ballistic missile engagement scenarios.”

The altitude of the SM-3 at impact was 93 miles.  Additionally, “aimpoint shift” was demonstrated on this test, wherein the SM-3 shifts its aimpoint in flight to ensure the probability that the ballistic missile’s ordnance, or warhead, is destroyed.  This is important in that one of the major criticisms of the Patriot in the ABM mode in the first Gulf War was that it tended to go after the largest target which, in the case of the SCUD on re-entry break-up, was the fuel tank vice warhead.


Ever wonder what “they” meant when talking about a painted sky?

Wonder no more:


PERSIAN GULF (Dec. 22, 2008) The guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61) transits through the Persian Gulf. Ramage is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) supporting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Fire Controlman Michael Clemente/Released)

Maritime BMD Comes to the East Coast

USS Ramage

Since the program began, Aegis BMD has been concentrated on the West Coast and with the FDNF.  Now, however, two more ships – this time on the East Coast, have undergone the modifications and one, the USS RAMAGE (DDG 61) has begun a deployment with the SM-3 Blk1a missile onboard (full article here): 

“She is loaded,” said Rear Adm. Alan Hicks, program director for Aegis ballistic missile defense, in a teleconference with reporters. “She can search and track for cueing; she can do engagements of exoatmospheric threats; and she can defend herself against air threats. That is our definition of fully mission-capable.”. . . On top of the enhanced software to track and target airborne ballistic missiles, the big arrow is the Standard Missile-3, which can make an intercept in space, at 100 miles above sea level.

Besides USS Stout, the other East Coast BMD destroyer, there are 16 other BMD capable Aegis cruisers and destroyers – Lake Erie, Port Royale and Shiloh on the cruiser side, and the Burke-class destroyers Benfold, Russell, Paul Hamilton, O’Kane, J.S. MacCain, Hopper, Higgins, Stethem, Curtis Wilbur, Decatur, Milius, Fitzgerald and John Paul Jones; all home-ported on the West Coast or with the FDNF in Japan.  As we’ve argued before – more are needed, especially in light of the growing proliferation, horizontal and vertical, of ballistic missiles.  Added ships will increase coverage, flexibility and presence in the employment of sea-based BMD from the maritime commons :


“I believe, near-term, that we need an additional four to six Atlantic Fleet ships in order to give the necessary flexibility to the fleet commander to keep the presence forward,” Hicks said.

Earlier in the summer, coincidentally at a time when war tensions between Iran and Israel were flaring, two Pacific-based BMD destroyers, the Benfold and the Russell, conducted a communications system test – not missile intercepts – in the Middle East.  The exercise was described as a test of the rapid exchange of information between the two fleets, via satellite, as well as information from ground-based sensors.  Benfold, in the Persian Gulf, and Russell, in the Mediterranean, worked “with one another in detecting, tracking, sharing information and engaging a simulated ballistic missile by sharing data via a number of paths,” according to information from 6th Fleet in Italy. 

“We expect when Ramage arrives in theater, between commander, 6th Fleet, and commander, 5th Fleet, to continue that level of exercises across areas of responsibility to further refine operational procedures,” Hicks said.

Now, about that fully integrated and combined air and missile defense concept

Sea-based BMD and the Maritime Strategy

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