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Report to Congress on Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense

The following is the July 5, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the Report

The Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, which is carried out by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Navy, gives Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers a capability for conducting BMD operations. Under the FY2019 budget submission, the number of BMD-capable Aegis ships is scheduled to be 41 at the end of FY2019 and 57 at the end of FY2023.

Two Japan-homeported Navy BMD-capable Aegis destroyers included in the above figures—the Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and the John S McCain (DDG-56)—were seriously damaged in collisions with merchant ships in waters off the coasts of Japan and Singapore in June 2017 and August 2017, respectively, and are currently being repaired. The temporary loss of these two BMDcapable ships reinforced, at the margin, concerns among some observers about required numbers of BMD-capable Aegis ships versus available numbers of BMD-capable Aegis ships, particularly for performing BMD operations in the Western Pacific.

Under the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) for European BMD operations, BMDcapable Aegis ships are operating in European waters to defend Europe from potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as Iran. BMD-capable Aegis ships also operate in the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf to provide regional defense against potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as North Korea and Iran.

The Aegis BMD program is funded mostly through MDA’s budget. The Navy’s budget provides additional funding for BMD-related efforts. MDA’s proposed FY2019 budget requests a total of $1,711.8 million in procurement and research and development funding for Aegis BMD efforts, including funding for two Aegis Ashore sites in Poland and Romania that are to be part of the EPAA. MDA’s budget also includes operations and maintenance (O&M) and military construction (MilCon) funding for the Aegis BMD program.

Issues for Congress regarding the Aegis BMD program include the following:

  • whether to approve, reject, or modify MDA’s FY2019 funding procurement and research and development funding requests for the program;
  • required numbers of BMD-capable Aegis ships versus available numbers of BMD-capable Aegis ships;
  • the burden that BMD operations may be placing on the Navy’s fleet of Aegis ships, and whether there are alternative ways to perform BMD missions now performed by U.S. Navy Aegis ships, such as establishing more Aegis Ashore sites;
  • burden sharing—how European naval contributions to European BMD capabilities and operations compare to U.S. naval contributions to European BMD capabilities and operations;
  • the potential for ship-based lasers, electromagnetic railguns (EMRGs), and hypervelocity projectiles (HVPs) to contribute in coming years to Navy terminal phase BMD operations and the impact this might eventually have on required numbers of ship-based BMD interceptor missiles; and
  • technical risk and test and evaluation issues in the Aegis BMD program.

via fas.org

  • Duane

    CNO Richardson is correct in proposing that AEGIS Ashore should replace AEGIS ship patrols for BMD of land based assets. 6 BMD ships now patrol 24/365 to protect land assets. To keep that many on station, another dozen ships, 18 total, must be commissioned to support maintenance availabities, testing, and training. That is about 1/3 of the planned BMD fleet, and nearly half the existing fleet.

    Those 18 ships can be replaced by 6 AEGIS ashore installations that are far cheaper to buy (a few hundred million vs. $2+B), and to man and operate (33 crew vs. 300+), than 18 BMD ships. The savings in cost and manpower can then be redirected to beefing up BMD for fleet assets and adding to our woefully short handed SSN fleet.

    • Graeme Rymill

      “a few hundred million”?

      The Japanese are paying $1.17 billion each for their two AEGIS Ashore facilities.

      • Well, that’s Japan. They decided that they needed their own special AESA radar rather than using off the shelf options. We seem to have paid around half of that for our Romanian and Hawaiian sites

        But even if Aegis ashore costs $1.17b, it is still a bargain compared to the 3x $1.8b Burkes needed to provide the same coverage. And that’s before you factor in its vastly lower maintenance and personnel costs.

        • Graeme Rymill

          I agree that it is cost effective. Especially in the case of Japan where it is the Japanese taxpayer not the US taxpayer footing the bill.. However with one AEGIS Ashore in Romania and one more to come in Poland it seems the ballistic missile threat from Iran is just about taken care of. Similarly the two AEGIS Ashore in Japan will largely take care of the threat from North Korea. Are more required?

          One advantage that ABM Burke’s have over land based installations is flexibility. If the threat shifts the ships can shift too.

      • Secundius

        I suspect what “Duane” is referring to, are the SIX BMD Ships cancelled in 2014 as a result of the 2011 Sequestration. Loosely based on the “San Antonio” class LPD, which also would have mounted a 32-MJ Rail Gun…

  • Ed L

    Good place for a frigate to be protecting the 6th of a Burke while in the BMD mode

    • Curtis Conway

      Since the modern battle space is going to be such an EM playground, I am concerned that 3 RMAs/array faces will not be enough to handle power and sensitivity requirements in a heavy ECM environment, even for escort AAW, and self defense operations. Should the antenna array be used for other electronic-centric mission sets, a higher population of array faces will buy margin and facilitate that activity. Whichever platform is selected, additional SWaP-C will facilitate growth in the main sensor antenna arrays, and that real estate should be available. The SPY-6 support equipment will only require upgrade. More power and A/C must be available for growth on the platform.

  • Refguy

    I’m trying to envision an engagement geometry where a ship in the Med would have a high probably of intercepting a ballistic missile aimed at any NATO member other than Italy. A ship in the channel might have a shot at a missile aimed at London. Can anyone clarify?

    • With SM-3 Block IB (range 350 miles), a DDG in the northern Aegean could probably defend everything south of the line running from Nantes to Istanbul against Iranian missiles, which meshes pretty nicely with the coverage from the Romanian Aegis site.

      With the new SM-3 Block IIA (range 1350 miles), the same ship could likely protect all of NATO and parts of Finland and Russia from Iran. However, giving the Romanian site Block IIA would seem to end the need for a DDG in the Med.

      • Refguy

        I wasn’t aware that SM-3 was effective against crossing targets, or in the case of a missile fired from Iran to Denmark or Norway (still part of NATO) in a tail chase scenario. Does this require cuing from something like SBIRS?