The United States’ globally immediate and constant mobile projection of force is our nation’s Navy and its eleven Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs). These CSGs each provide their own large area defensive zones centered on the Aircraft Carriers across the oceans of the world. The domains of subsurface, surface, air, and space surrounding the Aircraft Carriers are defended by U.S. submarines, surface ships, satellite sensors/communications, cyber, and planes that sail and fly as part of the CSG. The U.S. Navy is leading the way to better integrate forces and capabilities operating in the different domains to compete and win against the near peer, for the near peer threat will win if we fight in one domain only. It remains a great challenge to integrate and be interoperable across all of these domains for not just the Navy but also for the Joint Force and with our allies.
The United States Navy connects these different domain platforms through the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) for the air and space domain for an integrated air defense against cruise missiles and aircraft and satellite communications (SATCOMs) to enable Engage on Remote (EOR) and Launch on Remote (LOR) for ballistic missile and cruise missile defense using remote sensors that when combined produces an in depth, multilayered, and expanded large area defensive zones. U.S. Navy Aegis Cruisers and Destroyers provide this 360 degree air defense against cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and ballistic missile defense for the CSGs by positioning around the Aircraft Carrier.
The Navy continues to build up, modernize, and bring forward new technologies to enhance and expand these defended zones of the CSGs by enabling cross-domain integration and interoperability. Driven by the growing and extensive Chinese comprehensive threat that seeks to overmatch across the multiple domains and push the CSGs in the Pacific, the U.S. Navy is forced to compete, develop, and deploy a cross-domain capability, to include space and cyber, that deters and defends against the complexity of the Chinese threat. Some of the new technologies being rapidly developed:
Since 1983 – 36 years ago – Navy Cruisers equipped with the newly developed and deployed Aegis ship combat system have commanded the air defense of the CSGs. A total of 27 Ticonderoga Class Aegis Cruisers have entered service and one of these Cruisers will always sail with each of the CSGs to command the air defense of the group. To supplement the Cruiser in the CSG, there will always be at least one or more Aegis Destroyers. There is a total of 82 Arleigh Burke Class Aegis Destroyers that have entered service. All Aegis ships have a capability for conducting air defense against aircraft, cruise missiles, and UAVs and a significant number of Aegis ships also have a capability for conducting Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) operations by incorporating changes to the Aegis system’s computers and software and arming the ship with BMD specific interceptor missiles. There are five Aegis BMD Cruisers and 37 Destroyers today that are rotationally assigned to CSGs. The suite of combat systems that have been built into Aegis have been in response to the BMD threat. The crown jewel of the surface fleet – Aegis Baseline 9 – allows a ship to do both air defense to include cruise missile defense and BMD simultaneously. There are currently 17 Aegis BMD Baseline 9 ships in the fleet – with at least one assigned to each carrier.
Not all of the Aegis Destroyers and Aegis Cruisers are outfitted with the BMD capability and have a mixture of different baseline processors that enables specific weapon systems. Today there are 42 BMD capable Aegis ships and 17 are Baseline 9, the most modern system. There are an additional seven new construction Baseline 9 Destroyers on contract or already under construction in the nation’s shipyards. Additionally, all 21 Flight IIA Destroyers currently in service will be upgraded to Baseline 9 by 2028. The Missile Defense Review, published in January this year, called for all 87 Aegis Destroyers in the U.S. Navy fleet to be BMD capable. There are other specific BMD missions for the Navy in addition to the air defense of the CSGs that require numerous ships:
The newest Aegis Destroyers being procured from 2017 forward and subsequent years are being built to a new design called the Flight III version. These new ships are now being equipped with a new radar – called the Air and Missile Defense Radar or SPY-6 radar – and will replace the Air Defense Command of the CSGs. Flight III Destroyers are slated to start entering service in the 2020s.
Near future potential deployments for U.S. Navy Aegis BMD ships will soon include a proven Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) intercept capability, with the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor, for the U.S. homeland to defend Hawaii, the west coast, and the east coast of the United States. U.S. allies of Norway, Spain, the Republic of Korea, Australia, and Japan, have and are acquiring Aegis ships, some including with the BMD capability.
The more Aegis BMD ships and Baseline 9 ships the Navy can deploy, the safer the United States and the world will be. The United States Navy is on the leading edge of integration of cross domain platforms to best defend large area zones.
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