Pentagon Builds Aegis Ashore MD Sites in Romania

Following the 63rd successful hit-to-kill intercept for Aegis, DoD planners start work on building an Aegis Ashore site in Europe.

The Missile Defense Agency is working with Lockheed Martin to build a land-based Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense site in Romania as part of a broader strategy to widen the ballistic-missile defense protective envelope over Europe and other areas by drawing upon historically ship-based Aegis radar technology, Pentagon officials said.

An Aegis Ashore deck house, complete with Standard Missile-3, or SM-3, intercept capability,  is slated to be operational in Romania by 2015, Rick Lehner, MDA spokesman told Military​.com in an interview.  The effort is part of the Pentagon’s European Phased Adaptive Approach missile defense plan which calls for land-based BMD intercept capability to be operational at locations in Romania by 2015 and Poland by 2018, he added.

“This plan utilizes a proven Aegis weapons system and is a lot less expensive than having ships on station doing the same mission. What you have is a permanent capability. This really is a phased adaptive approach in three separate phases. The primary benefit is you can assemble a proven missile defense system that can defend Europe,” Lehner said.

The Romanian Aegis Ashore site will be configured to fire the test-proven SM-3 IB interceptor missile, Lehner said. However, the Polish site for 2018 will be able to fire the larger, more powerful SM-3 IIA missile, which has a longer range, he added.

Preparations for the Romanian site are already underway, said Nick Bucci, director of BMD development programs at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business.

“When you look at Aegis Ashore, it has been a faster development production and deployment program than any I have ever experienced. The ability to do it at a faster pace happened because everything was geared toward getting to the deployment date of 2015 for Romania,” Bucci explained.

Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, or BMD, has historically been a ship-based integrated missile defense system which uses radar to identify approaching targets in tandem with SM-3 interceptor missiles engineered to knock them out of the sky.

The system uses the AN/SPY-1 radar, multiple variants of SM-3 missiles and various software configurations to ensure targets are located, tracked and destroyed. The Aegis BMD system is able to eliminate intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, during the mid-course phase of flight — the period when an approaching missile is in space above the earth’s atmosphere.

In existence since 2004, Aegis BMD is now operating on 28 Navy ships and with a number of allied nations. U.S. allies with Aegis capability include the Japan Self Defense Forces, Spanish Navy, the South Korean Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, Italy, Denmark and others, MDA officials said.

At the same time, Aegis BMD technology exists in increments; software and hardware configurations designed to gradually improve technical performance. While most existing Aegis ships use what’s called Aegis BMD Weapons System 3.6 or 4.0, there are several next-generation BMD Weapons Systems currently in development called 5.0 or 5.1, MDA and Lockheed officials explained.

The Aegis ashore deckhouse slated for Romania is being engineered with Aegis BMD Weapons System 5.0 — an integrated suite of technologies which provides multi-mission signal processing capability, Lockheed officials said.

For instance, the multi-mode signal processor provides the ability to simultaneously track air and cruise missile threats as well as ballistic missile threats, officials added.

“The 5.0 system can allocate radar resources as the situation demands. You can dynamically allocate radar resources to focus on BMD missions if one should pop up,” said Jim Sheridan, director of  Navy Aegis programs, Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business.

The MDA and Lockheed are also working on building an Aegis Ashore deck house at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii, Lehner explained.

“We need to have a test site to conduct intercepts because we cannot conduct tests from Romania and Poland,” said Lehner.

A live fire test using the Aegis Ashore test facility in Hawaii is slated for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2014.

Meanwhile, the Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Pacific Command, and U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS Lake Erie recently conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system, resulting in the intercept of a complex separating short-range ballistic missile target over the Pacific, an MDA statement said.

The target flew northwest towards a broad ocean area of the Pacific Ocean. Following target launch, the USS Lake Erie detected and tracked the missile with its onboard AN/SPY-1 radar, the statement said.  The test was the fourth consecutive successful intercept test of the SM-3 Block IB guided missile with the Aegis BMD 4.0 Weapon System.

“The ship, equipped with the second-generation Aegis BMD weapon system, developed a fire control solution and launched two SM-3 Block IB guided missiles to engage the target. The first SM-3 that was launched successfully intercepted the target warhead. This was the first salvo mission of two SM-3 Block IB guided missiles launched against a single separating target,” an MDA written statement reads.

Across all Ballistic Missile Defense System programs, this is the 63rd successful hit-to-kill intercept in 79 flight test attempts since 2001, according to the statement.