Even though today's ballistic missile defense test was delayed, I want to talk about the AEGIS BMD program, both for the US Navy, and how it effects allies to date. The test is very timely, as it will be the first intercept conducted by one of the AEGIS 3.7 Destroyers fielding the SPY-1D. The other tests involved AEGIS Cruisers that use the SPY-1B. The test will include the SPS Mendez Nunez (F 104) similar to how the HNLMS Tromp (F 803) back in December. The test, if successful, would prove the SPY-1D can support the AEGIS BMD capability, which is timely because the Australian AWDs that were contracted out yesterday may someday be performing Ballistic Missile Defense Patrol in the Pacific.
The US Navy plans on converting 18 existing AEGIS ships to give them Ballistic Missile Capability. The plan, which continues to evolve due to changing circumstances, has already converted 16 US ships and 1 Japanese Self Defense Navy destroyer.
The best media article to date on the subject is a defensenews article from last year by Christopher P. Cavas entitled " U.S. Warships To Get Missile Defense Upgrades" (you can read it here). The key paragraph:
Eighteen U.S. Navy Aegis ships — three cruisers and 15 destroyers — are being modified for the BMD mission. Two ships already are fitted with Aegis 3.6, the Shiloh and destroyer Stethem, according to Lockheed Martin. The other two cruisers, Lake Erie and Port Royal, will have it by the end of the year, along with the destroyers Curtis Wilbur and Decatur. All the ships will be capable of launching the SM-3 missile, which designed to intercept a ballistic missile or warhead.
Ships already fitted with Aegis 3.0 include the destroyers John S. McCain, Fitzgerald, Russell, Milius, Paul Hamilton, John Paul Jones, Benfold, Hopper, O’Kane and Higgins. Those ships will be upgraded to the full 3.6 version by 2009, according to the Navy.
Bold mine to highlight count. For those not familiar, version 3.6 is for engagement, while version 3.0 is for tracking (also known as Long Range Surveillance & Tracking or LRS&T). The FY08 Budget estimates provided to Congress for Ballistic Missile Defense defines the program objectives for calender Year 2007.
Fixed Site Interceptors
Fixed Site Sensors
- 21 Ground-Based Interceptors, Alaska
- 3 Ground-Based Interceptors, California
- Cobra Dane radar, Alaska
- Beale radar, California
- Fylingdales radar, UK
- 1 Sea-Based X-Band radar, Alaska
- 2 Forward-Based X-Band radars
- 7 Aegis Surveillance & Track Destroyers
- 3 Aegis Engagement Cruisers
- 7 Engagement Destroyers
- 21 Standard Missile-3
- 546 Patriot PAC-3
That article is also the most in depth review of the current US Navy and Missile Defense Agency plans available in the open source that I have found. While it is an outline, much of it depends on funding from Congress, but it does give a reader a good idea of a whole Ballistic Missile Defense concept within the US.
The defensenews article identified 3 of the AEGIS engagement destroyers, meaning by the end of 2007 four more US destroyers will be converted to version 3.6. The 7th destroyer with Surveillance & Track Destroyers capability has not been named, however the JDS Kirishima (DDG 174) does have AEGIS 3.0. According to the Missile Defense Agencies BMD Test and Targets worksheet from earlier this year, JDS Kongo (DDG 173) will be the next Japanese destroyer upgraded, an upgrade that includes engagement capability, and will be apart of JFTM-01 in 1Q FY008 (late 2007) as the interceptor launch platform.
A few points. If you look at the US cruisers and destroyers with AEGIS BMD, take note that the destroyers listed represent all of the Flight I and Flight II Arleigh Burke class destroyers in the Pacific. According to a Congressional Research Service report in April 07, the Navy will convert one more new DDG (#17) to AEGIS BMD LRS&T this calender year, and the 18th DDG to AEGIS BMD in 2008 calender year. That report includes the following 2 slides, the first which outlines the platform upgrade plan, and the second which outlines the cost of AEGIS BMD.
In other words, the most the Missile Defense Agency and the US Navy intends to spend on AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense in the next 6 years is 1,205.5 million, or roughly 1.2 billion. Considering the rewards, the success of the tests, the maturity of the technology being utilized to deploy ballistic missile defense, and interoperability potential with allies this seems like a bargain of an investment in relation to so many other defense programs. Hopefully Congress sees it that way with the Fy08 budget and continues to fully fund AEGIS BMD, as it appears to be the least risky investment in current Ballistic Missile Defense programs.