missile defense system

Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System is a United States Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency program developed to provide a last line of defense against ballistic missiles. Aegis BMD (also know as Sea-Based Midcourse) is designed to intercept ballistic missiles post-boost phase and prior to reentry. It builds upon the Aegis Weapon System with the AN/SPY-1 radar and Standard missile technologies. Aegis BMD equipped vessels can transmit their target detection information to the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system, and/or engage potential threats using the SM-3.

The current system uses the Lockheed-Martin Aegis Weapon System and the Raytheon RIM-161 STANDARD Missile-3 (SM-3). Notable subcontractors and technical experts include Boeing, Alliant Techsystems (ATK), Honeywell, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory (Lincoln Lab).


US Navy interest in anti-ballistic missiles operations dates back to 1965 when the RIM-2 Terrier and RIM-24 Tartar anti-aircraft missiles were test fired against Corporal and Redstone missiles. While some of those tests were successful, the capability was not exploited.

The current effort to deploy Aegis ballistic missile defense (ABMD) was kindled in the mid 1980s as part of President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The SDI plan initially called for a space based rail gun system. However, due to technological constraints, the system was transformed into a surface based system know as the Lightweight Exo-atmospheric Projectile (LEAP). The original testing of the LEAP took place as part of the Army LEAP program. Later SDIO worked with the Navy to test the LEAP on the Terrier missile. The TERRIER LEAP demonstration program lasted from the 1991 through 1993 and consisted of five flight tests. Two of these were intercept tests.

In the late 1990s the US Navy was tasked to provide a weapon system for exploratory testing of LEAP. This phase was designated the Aegis LEAP Intercept (ALI) program. The program called for 2 successful intercepts in 5 attempts. On June 13, 2002 the second successful ALI intercept occurred during the FM-3 flight test mission. Initial Aegis BMD success may have contributed to President George W. Bush's decision to deploy an emergency ballistic missile capability by late 2004.

Upon the completion of the ALI program, Aegis BMD was transitioned to the production phase. The first Block I production SM-3 was delivered in October 2004 and the Aegis 3.0 update was delivered in 2005.

Current Aegis BMD hardware includes the SM-3 Block-1a missile and other improvements to the Aegis Weapons System.

Future development of the Aegis BMD system includes Launch on Remote capability, upgraded SM-3 avionics and hardware and an upgraded Aegis Weapon System.

Aegis BMD Vessels

As of June 2006, the US Navy has equipped 3 Ticonderoga class cruisers, the USS Lake Erie, USS Shiloh and USS Port Royal, with anti-ballistic missile capability. The US Navy is currently converting 15 additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to incorporate the Aegis BMD capability. These ships include: USS John Paul Jones, and USS Russell, USS Ramage, USS Milius and USS Decatur. A total of 3 cruisers and 15 destroyers are scheduled to have BMD capability by 2009.

Flight tests to date


The first flight for Raytheon's SM-3 came on September 24 1999 during Control Test Vehicle (CTV)-1A (Codename: Stellar Phoenix). CTV-1a was a test of the first and second stage of the SM-3. The mission was considered a success. The USS Shiloh was the firing ship.


The next mission was conducted in July 2000 and designated Flight Test Round (FTR-1) (Codename: Stellar Archer). This mission ended in failure when the Third Stage Rocket Motor (TSRM) failed to separate from the second stage. The USS Shiloh was the firing ship.


FTR-1a (Codename: Stellar Gemini) was conducted on January 25 2001. This mission would be the first time a live unitary target was engaged by the Aegis BMD system. The test target was launched from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility located on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

FTR-1a would demonstrate exo-atmospheric avionics operation of the SM-3 Kinetic Warhead (KW) and the real-time performance of the Aegis BMD AN/SPY-1 radar. At the time this test was conducted, the KW's propulsion system, the Solid Divert and Attitude Control System(SDACS), was still under development. Total system operation was demonstrated in FM-2. The mission was considered successful when the KW acquired and tracked the test target for several seconds. The USS Lake Erie was the firing ship.


The purpose of Flight Mission (FM)-2 (Codename: Stellar Eagle) was to characterize the Aegis Weapon System and Standard Missile-3 interceptor. The mission was not required to intercept the target. On January 25 2002, an SM-3 launched from the USS Lake Erie collided with a test target northeast of the island of Kauai. This mission marked the first intercept of a ballistic missile from a sea-based platform.


On June 13 2002 Aegis BMD succeeded in intercepting a unitary target missiles launched from PMRF during FM-3 (Codename: Stellar Impact). The USS Lake Erie was the firing ship. This mission marked the successful completion of the Aegis LEAP Intercept program.

Coincidentally, June 13 2002 was also the date that the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty), which prohibited the Soviet Union and the United States from deploying an anti-ballistic missile system.


On November 21 2002 Aegis BMD intercepted a unitary ballistic missile during FM-4 (Codename: Stellar Viper). FM-4 was the first Aegis BMD test to conduct the "aimpoint shift" maneuver. The aimpoint shift increases the probability that the ballistic missile ordinance will be destroyed at intercept. The USS Lake Erie was the firing ship.


On June 18 2003, the FM-5 mission (Codename: Stellar Hammer) resulted in the first test failure of an operational Aegis BMD system. During the test, the SDACS propulsion system used to guide the SM-3's kinetic warhead suffered a malfunction after ignition. It is important to note that prior to the rocket motor failure the SM-3 kinetic warhead was on an intercept course with the test target. The USS Lake Erie was the firing ship.


The next mission, FM-6 (Codename: Stellar Defender) was conducted on December 11 2003. A modification to the SDACS design was implemented so as not to endanger the warhead's ability to intercept. This override allowed the KW to navigate with reduced (but no less lethal) capability. FM-6 once again featured a successful intercept. The USS Lake Erie was the firing ship.

FTM 04-1 (FM-7)

After the FM-6 mission, the Missile Defense Agency implemented a change to the flight test naming convention for all subsequent ABMD flight tests. According to MDA the new convention better reflected the program's position within the Block 2004/2006 schema of development. The new name, Flight Test Mission (FTM) 04-1 (Codename: Stellar Dragon), indicated that this would be the first flight test under the Block 2004 development cycle for Aegis BMD. On February 24 2005, FM-7, or FTM 04-1, demonstrated yet again the system's ability to destroy an enemy ballistic missile. The USS Lake Erie was the firing ship.

FTM 04-2 (FM-8)

FM-8, or FTM 04-2 (Codename: Stellar Valkyrie), was the first mission to utilize a target missile with a separating warhead. This new target missile, called a Medium Range Target (MRT) more closely resembled real world threat missiles, but the SM-3 Block I missile was not fooled and intercepted the warhead to rack up the sixth intercept for the program out of seven tries on November 17 2005. The USS Lake Erie was the firing ship.

FTM 04-3 (FM-9)

FM-9 or FTM 04-3 was canceled as it was a repeat of the FTM 04-2 mission and therefore deemed redundant.


FTM-10 (Codename: Stellar Predator) was conducted in 4 events. On June 23 2006, event 2 demonstrated the Aegis BMD system. The FTM-10 test target was the MRT with a separating warhead. The USS Shiloh was the firing ship and utilized the Aegis Weapon System version 3.6 for the first time. This test was the first to feature the latest model of the SM-3, the Block Ia. The mission was considered a success when the KW tracked, selected and intercepted the MRT reentry vehicle (RV).

FTM-10 marked the first time another country participated in a sea-based anti-ballistic missile exercise. The Japanese government was interested in purchasing a system similar to Aegis BMD to deter potential threats and was invited to participate in the FTM-10 exercise. The Japanese Naval vessel JDS Kirishima (Kongō class destroyer) was stationed off the coast of PMRF and observed all FTM-10 events.


On December 7 2006, FTM-11 (Codename: Stellar Hunter) resulted in a mission abort. Due to an onboard error, the Aegis Weapon System failed to engage the test target and never launched the interceptor. The error was discovered and corrected prior to the retest of FTM-11 test flight. The USS Lake Erie was the firing ship. The USS Hopper and the Dutch frigate HNLMS Tromp participated in the exercise.

FTM-11 (retest)

On [[April 26] 2007], Aegis BMD successfully intercepted its eighth target in ten attempts. This test marked the 27th successful "Hit-to-Kill" intercept (for all MDA systems) since 2001. The USS Lake Erie was the firing ship and utilized the Aegis 3.6 Weapon System. The interceptor was the SM-3 Block-Ia. This test not only demonstrated the ability of ABMD to intercept a ballistic missile but also demonstrated the Lake Erie's ability to simultaneously track and intercept antiship missiles. This test also utilized the Solid Divert and Attitude Control System (SDACS), in the full pulse configuration.


On June 22 2007, the USS Decatur, using the operationally-certified Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Weapon System (BMD 3.6) and the Standard Missile - 3 (SM-3) Block IA missile, successfully performed a "Hit To Kill" intercept of a separating, medium range, ballistic missile. The target missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, HI. The Aegis-class cruiser USS Port Royal, Spain's Álvaro de Bazán class frigate MÉNDEZ NÚÑEZ (F-104), and MDA's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) mobile ground-based radar also participated in the flight test. FTM-12 (Codename: Stellar Athena) was the first to use an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer as the firing ship.


(Codename: Stellar KIJI) On 17 December 2007, the JDS Kongō successfully intercepted a ballistic missile with SM-3 Block IA and Aegis System. The target was launched from Pacific Missile Range Facility. This was the first time a Japanese ship was selected to launch the interceptor missile. In previous tests Japanese ships provided tracking and communications..

Other capabilities

The Aegis BMD system, coupled with the RIM-161 Standard missile (SM-3), has also demonstrated a limited capability as an anti-satellite weapon against satellites in the lower portion of low Earth orbit. On February 20, 2008, USA 193 was destroyed by an group of Aegis ships in the Pacific, out of concern of that satellite's hydrazine payload contaminating land area upon re-entry from an uncontrolled orbit. The launching vessel was the USS Lake Erie, and one SM-3 missile was used. Interception was at an altitude of 133 nautical miles (247 kilometers).

See also

Boost Phase Missile Defense Systems

Midcourse Phase Missile Defense Systems

Terminal Phase Missile Defense Systems


Search another word or see missile defense systemon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature