The US Navy Aegis missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) successfully conducted a flight test yesterday, November 6, 2014 testing the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system capability to defeat a synchronized raid by nearly simultaneous attacks of ballistic and cruise missiles. The test included three successful near-simultaneous target engagements over the Pacific Ocean.
This scenario represents potential threats expected from countries such as China, North Korea and Iran, possessing anti-ship ballistic missiles (such as China’s Dong-Feng 21 – DF-21) and cruise missiles, capable of attacking naval forces at distances of hundreds of miles from shore.
For this milestone test USS John Paul Jones was equipped with the Aegis Baseline (BL) 9.C1 (BMD 5.0 Capability Upgrade) Weapon System, enabling the Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyers to rapidly switch between BMD and the area air defense role – a capability that proved critical for the tests’ success. As part of the test group, two MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles assisted the intercept, providing target discrimination by airborne sensors.
The key for successful intercepts such as this is simultaneous, multi-mode operation of the radar arrays, signal processors and combat information system, enabling users to monitor their surrounding with high level of confidence and engage multiple targets of different domains coming at the vessel from different trajectories, directions and speed.
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[ismember]The Aegis Combat System — Baseline 9 is implementing those capabilities through the introduction of new signal processing units, enabling users to rapidly changing modes, tweaking the system’s resources’ priorities to meet specific demands. As part of the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) upgrade, the system is blending the classic air defense operating modes with new scanning and tracking routines required for persistent tracking of ballistic missile defense (BMD) and tracking low altitude, sea skimming low-signature targets such as the cruise missiles.
As part of this complex engagement, missile targets were fired from Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, Hawaii. One short-range ballistic missile target was intercepted by a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB guided missile guided by the ship’s AN/SPY-1 radar BMD capability. The two low-flying cruise missile targets were engaged near-simultaneously, by Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IIIA guided missiles. To detect and track those cruise missiles the AEGIS radar was operating in the IAMD ‘Radar Priority Mode’, to detect and track the missiles with its onboard AN/SPY-1.
Regardless of the IMAD critical role in enabling the Aegis ships to defend against coordinated, simultaneous attacks, the US Navy has limited its plan to field IAMD only on seven of the 28 DDG-51 class vessels currently in service. However, the system will be deployed as standard on all new build DDG-51s. Future vessels of this class are also expected to replace the SPY-1 radar with the new Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR).
This test, designated Flight Test Standard Missile-25 (FTM-25), was the first live-fire event of the Aegis Weapon System in IAMD Radar Priority Mode, engaging a ballistic missile target and a raid of cruise missile targets. FTM-25 marks the 29th successful intercept in 35 flight test attempts for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002. Across all Ballistic Missile Defense System programs, this is the 66th successful hit-to-kill intercept in 82 flight test attempts since 2001.[/ismember]