A recent test of the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) systems weapon system demonstrated the ability of the U.S. Navy’s newest AEGIS cruiser, USS Lake Erie (CG 70) to engage ballistic missile targets. During the test the cruiser employed its BMD 3.6.1 AEGIS system to detect, track and intercept a short-range unitary ballistic missile target in the terminal phase of its trajectory using two SM-2 Block IV missiles performing endo-atmospheric (within the atmosphere) intercept. The system was also employed in February 2008 for the shoot down of a U.S. government satellite before it reentered the atmosphere.
The new system will be certified for U.S. Navy fleet operations later this year. The SM-2 Block IV missiles were recently modified to perform the terminal phase endo-atmospheric intercept of a ballistic missile. In addition to the recent successful terminal phase intercept Aegis BMD has performed 13 successful exo-atmospheric intercepts in 15 attempts in the midcourse and terminal phase of flight.
Ballistic missiles present different challenges during each phase of flight, and Aegis BMD is proving its full range of flexibility,” said Orlando Carvalho, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Surface/Sea-Based Missile Defense line of business. “That flexibility reflects the disciplined systems engineering that invented, evolved and continues to develop Aegis capabilities against threats yet to come. Engaging ballistic missiles from the sea in the terminal phase is challenging for both the Sailors who executed this mission and the weapon system they used. Sea-Based Terminal is a critical capability in the Aegis BMD weapon system that provides protection to population centers, our deployed forces abroad, and critical infrastructure.”
The Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Navy are jointly developing Aegis BMD as part of the United States’ Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). Currently, 12 U.S. Navy Aegis-equipped warships have the ability to conduct long-range search and track, and engage ballistic missiles. Another five Aegis warships are equipped with Aegis BMD long-range surveillance and track capability. By the end of 2008, 15 Aegis destroyers and three Aegis cruisers will have the capability to engage short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats and support other BMDS engagements using the Aegis BMD Weapon System and the SM-3. The Aegis BMD 3.6.1 will be installed on all U.S. Navy Aegis BMD ships beginning in 2009. Japan has purchased Aegis BMD capability for its Kongo-class Aegis destroyers, and completed its first successful test of Aegis BMD in December 2007.