The Aegis Combat System program has several major milestones approaching, including the lightoff of the first land-based Aegis Ashore, the completion of all Baseline 9 field introduction activities and progress on several active Foreign Military Sales (FMS) cases.
The first Aegis Ashore installation in Romania is nearing a Dec. 31 lightoff, Program Executive Officer for Integrated Warfare Systems Rear Adm. Jon Hill told USNI News on Nov. 24. He said a presidential mandate requires the system to be online by the end of 2015, and the Navy and the Missile Defense Agency are on track for the lightoff at the end of December.
Hill said the Aegis system has been certified and was ready for ordnance to be loaded, and the installation is now going through the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) process now.
“We’re treating it like a ship,” he said. The shore installation went through an initial INSURV trial, all remaining machinery spaces were completed, and after this final INSURV inspection the site will be activated. After the lightoff, MDA will make a technical capability declaration (TCD), similar to an initial operational capability (IOC) declaration, Hill added.
In addition to this new node in the Aegis network, the entire Aegis program is taking a step forward with the finalization of all Aegis Baseline 9 fielding activities. Baseline 9 – with its Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability that allows ballistic missile defense and anti-air warfare simultaneously, and its connection to the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture – was certified earlier this year.
“They’re ready to deploy, and we’re sending [USS Benfold (DDG-65) and USS Barry (DDG-52)] forward” to Yokosuka, Japan, he said.
“[USS Chancellorsville (CG-62)] is already there, so we’re pretty excited about that latest [operational test]” that cleared the two destroyers for operational tasking.
At the same time, “we’re wrapping up the [Standard Missile-6 follow-on operational test and evaluation] right now, and so by springtime Baseline 9 will be clearly in the middle of in-service,” Hill continued.
“It’s been in fleet introduction for the last year, so this is a big step forward because there’s a lot of capability in that baseline.”
The U.S. Navy isn’t the only one boosting its Aegis capabilities, Hill said, noting many high visibility FMS cases right now. While the Japanese Aegis destroyer modernization effort is the most talked about, he said the Spanish and Australian navies are also in the midst of upgrade efforts.
Hill said he has an officer stationed at the shipyard in Adelaide, Australia, to help prepare for that navy’s first Aeglis lightoff on an air warfare destroyer this spring.
And after participating in the Maritime Theater Missile Defense (MTMD) Forum Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) At-Sea Demonstration last month, the Spanish Navy is considering upgrading its Aegis ships to include BMD capability. Hill said some Spanish ships are already equipped with the Aegis Combat System, and one ship was given a temporary partial upgrade for the at-sea demonstration to allow it to track the ballistic missile targets. After successfully tracking during the exercise, the Spanish Navy is now interested in pursuing the BMD capability for its fleet, Hill said, and “it’s just a matter now of getting a case in place” to sell them the upgrade through the FMS process.