Aegis BMD Update (January 20, 2014)

An update on some recent developments on Aegis BMD as it moves towards the deployment of the Aegis Ashore site with SM-3 Block IB interceptors in Romania in 2015.


The first two Aegis Ashore intercept tests, planned for the end of 2014.  Image Source: MDA[1]


Block IB Intercept Tests

In September and October, MDA conducted two successful initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) intercept tests of the Block IB interceptor, FTM-21 on September 18 and FTM-22 on October 3.  These were the fourth and fifth consecutive successful intercept tests for the Block IB after its first intercept attempt failed in September 2011.  FTM-21 was a salvo test (two interceptors against one short-range missile target) with the first interceptor hitting the target warhead.  FTM-22 was the first tests of a Block IB interceptor against a medium-range target.  At the time it was conducted, FTM-22 was described by MDA as the highest altitude SM-3 intercept ever (with the previous high of about 247 km occurring in the 2008 satellite intercept).  However, MDA subsequently stated that the FTM-22 intercept occurred at a lower altitude than anticipated and thus was not the highest altitude intercept.[2] [Added January 22: Lockheed Spokesperson says that as a result of FTM-22 intercept being lower than expected, the previous test FTM-21 is highest intercept.  See:]

Next Block IB Tests and IB Production

Two more intercept tests of the Block IB interceptor (FTM-23, FTM-24) are planned for the first half of 2014.  Assuming these are successful, the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation may then issue a final IOT&E report as early as July 2014.[3]  In a standard military procurement program, a positive IOT&E report is required before full-rate production of a system can begin.  However, MDA systems are exempt from the regulations, and so it is possible that a full-production decision for Block IB interceptors could be made sooner.  In his July 2013 written statement to the Senate Appropriations Committee, MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring stated that FTM-21 and FTM-22 “will support a full-rate production decision” on the SM-3 Block IB with 39 of the missiles to be delivered by the end of 2014.  (Current MDA plans call for buying 52 Block IBs in FY 2014, followed by 72 per year in FY 2015 through FY 2018.  Numbers for years after 2018 have not been released.)

First Aegis Destroyer to Spain Next Month

As part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), four U.S. Aegis BMD equipped destroyers are to be home ported at the Spanish port of Rota.  The first of these ships, the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) is now scheduled to arrive there in February.[4]  All four ships are to arrive in Rota before the end of 2015.

Ceremonies for Aegis Ashore in Romania

A ground-breaking ceremony for the planned Aegis Ashore site in Deveselu, Romania was held on October 28 2013.  The same month, a ceremony was held in Moorestown, New Jersey to mark the “light-off” – the beginning of testing — of the Aegis Ashore system destined for Romania.[5]  According to current plans, following testing in New Jersey, the Aegis equipment and the deckhouse housing both it and the radar hardware will be dismantled and shipped to Romania in time to be operational in 2015.

Aegis Ashore Testing

The “light off” ceremony for Aegis Ashore test system at the U.S. Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) test range on Hawaii was held in early December.[6]  As will be the case for the Romania site, the Aegis system was originally set up in and tested in New Jersey before being moved to Hawaii (although a new deckhouse was built in Hawaii instead of moving the one in new Jersey).  The first two Aegis Ashore intercept tests (AA FTM-01 and AA FTM-02, both using the Aegis BMD 5.0 system and SM-3 Block IB interceptors) are currently scheduled for the last quarter of 2014.

[1] Briefing Slides, MDA Deputy Director Rear Admiral Randall B. Hendrickson, 2012 Space and Missile Defense Conference, August 14, 2012

[2] Jason Sherman, “SM-3 Block IB Completes IOT&E with a Bang, Full rate Production Review,” Inside Missile Defense, October 16, 2013.

[3] Jason Sherman, “Key Report on SM-3 IB Effectiveness, Suitability Expected Next Summer,” Inside Defense SITREP, November 13, 2013.

[4] Steven Beardsly, “Missile Destroyers to Raise the Significance of Rota and the Mediterranean,” January 7, 2013.

[5] Megan Eckstein, “Lockheed Martin, NAVY, MDA Complete Light off for Second Aegis Ashore System,” Defense Daily, November 4, 2013.

[6] Lara Seligman, “Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Ashore System Completes ‘Light Off’ at PMRF,” Inside Defense SITREP, January 13, 2013.

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  1. During the late 19, the U.S. 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 was for two successful intercepts in five 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.


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