Due to budget constraints, the U.S. Navy is planning to remove the missile defense capability of five Aegis BMD Ticonderoga class cruisers in coming years as part of a cruiser “modernization” plan, according to a recent report. These five ships are currently the only U.S. cruisers with BMD capability. Taking them out of the fleet will reduce the amount of missile defense ships available to the Combatant Commanders (CCDRs) for regional deterrence and defense operations.
The announcement of this move comes at time of rapidly growing demand from CCDRs for mobile, sea-based BMD assets. In a March 13 DOD Information Paper , the most recently updated Navy Force Structure Assessment states that the Navy requires 40 Aegis Baseline 9 capable BMD ships to “support the defense of the sea base and limited expeditionary land based sites.” In addition to these unique Navy requirements, the CCDRs demand for BMD ships “has increased from 44 in FY-12-14 to 77 in FY16.” The paper says the Navy plans to meet this requirement through the construction of new ships and modernizing existing destroyers with advanced BMD systems.
Currently the Navy’s inventory of BMD ships is far below either of these requirements. The Navy has only 33 Aegis BMD capable ships. Only six of these ships are equipped with the most modern Baseline 9 Aegis BMD system.
If the Navy ultimately does move forward with its plan for these five cruisers, it would be prudent to preserve and set aside these Aegis BMD system components for future Aegis Ashore Sites, modernization and installation on Aegis BMD ships that are not designated to be Baseline 9 systems.
Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) is seeking a provision in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that would prevent the five cruisers from being stripped of BMD capability until the Navy can certify that it can meet the demand.
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