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The motto in Latin: Custos Custodum Ipsorum means "Guard of the Guardians Themselves" in English

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (Aegis BMD or ABMD)[1] is a United States Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency program developed to provide defense against ballistic missiles. It is part of the United States national missile defense strategy. Aegis BMD (also known as Sea-Based Midcourse) is designed to intercept ballistic missiles post-boost phase and prior to reentry.

It enables warships to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles, by expanding the Aegis Combat System with the addition of 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, if needed, engage potential threats using either the SM-2 or SM-3 missile.[2][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, SPAWAR Systems Center, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory (Lincoln Lab).

History and technical development


Standard Missile - 3 (SM-3) is launched from the Pearl Harbor-based Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie. November 17, 2005

Aegis Ashore deckhouse

The current effort to deploy Aegis ballistic missile defense (ABMD) was begun during the mid-1980s as part of President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The SDI plan was initially for a space-based railgun system. However, due to technological constraints, the system was transformed into a surface-based system known as the Lightweight Exo-atmospheric Projectile (LEAP). The original testing of the LEAP was done 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 1991 into 1995 and consisted of four flight tests. Two of these were intercept tests in early 1995; both failed to intercept—the first had a software error in the second stage booster, the second had a squib (pyrotechnic switch to connect power) in the kinetic kill vehicle that was mounted backwards and failed to fire.

Program history and development

During 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 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.

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.

This system was given major new importance by President Obama in September 2009, when he announced plans to scrap the plans for a missile defense site in Poland, in favor of missile defense systems located on US Navy warships.[4][5] On 18 September 2009, Russian Prime Minister Putin welcomed Obama's plans for missile defense which may include stationing American Aegis armed warships in the Black Sea, as these would be less effective against Russia's missile attacks.[6][7]

In 2009, several US Navy ships were fitted with SM-3 missiles to serve this function, which complements the Patriot systems already deployed by American units. Also, warships of Japan and Australia have been given weapons and technology to enable them to participate as well.[8][9]

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. In 2012 Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense will merge with Aegis Open Architecture and deliver the benefits of both platforms.[10]

The Launch on Remote capability involves the use of off-board sensors, such as the Space Tracking and Surveillance System to provide a targeting solution for a SM-3 launch.[11]

Aegis Ashore

A land-based component, Aegis Ashore, is also planned (pictured). This would consist of equipment which is commonly used by the Navy being deployed in land-based facilities. This would include SPY-1 radars and a battery of Standard Missile-3s. The Obama administration’s plans call for two sites: the first in Romania at Deveselu in 2015 and the second in Poland in 2018. In 2020, both will get the latest versions of the Aegis BMD software and the latest version of the SM-3.[12] Some radar facilities will be placed in Turkey at a future date.[13][14][15][16]


Several countries have begun to deploy this system. The most prominent are the United States and Japan. Also, Spain, United Kingdom, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, and NATO are taking effort to install LRST and engagement capable systems.[17]

U.S. Navy Aegis BMD Vessels

A total of five US Navy Ticonderoga class cruisers and 16 Arleigh Burke class destroyers have BMD capability as of November 2014.[2][18] In 2010, all remaining Ticonderoga class cruisers that have SPY 1B systems (CG-59–CG-73) will be refitted with TBMD engagement technology.

Ticonderoga class cruisers equipped with anti-ballistic missile capability include the USS Lake Erie, USS Shiloh and USS Port Royal. Arleigh Burke class destroyers so equipped include the USS Wilbur, USS Stout, USS John S. McCain, USS Russell, USS Paul Hamilton, USS Ramage, USS Fitzgerald, USS Stethem, USS Benfold, USS Milius, USS Decatur, USS O'Kane.

An additional three ships have been refitted for Long Range Surveillance and Tracking (LRST): USS John Paul Jones, USS Hopper, and USS Higgins, with plans to add engagement capabilities by 2010.

On November 12, 2009, the Missile Defense Agency announced that six additional US Navy destroyers would be upgraded to participate in the program. In fiscal 2012, USS Carney, USS Ross, and USS Donald Cook will be upgraded. USS Cole, USS McFaul and USS Porter will be upgraded in fiscal year 2013. The goal of the program is to have 21 ships upgraded by the end of 2010; 24 in 2012; 27 around 2013 and 38 at the end of FY 2015.[19][20]

In January 2010, the Obama Administration began to increase the deployed presence of Aegis BMD-equipped warships in the Persian Gulf. Some media reports attributed this to heightened concerns about conduct of Iran and its possible nuclear weapons effort.[21]

Japanese deployment

The JMSDF has equipped three vessels for LRST and engagement: JS Kongo, JS Chokai, JS Myoko, and in 2010 the JS Kirishima.[22][23] Japan's foreign minister Hirofumi Nakasone and South Korea's Minister of Foreign Affairs Yu Myung-hwan agreed that early April 5, 2009 launch[24] of the North Korean Unha-2 satellite violated UN resolutions 1695 and 1718 of July 2006. Japan's cabinet examined approval of a JMSDF AEGIS BMD engagement in the event of a failure of the Taepondong launch.[25][26][27][28]

The Japanese government also noted that it could bypass cabinet for an interception under Article 82, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Self-Defence Forces law.[29] In total, 5 AEGIS destroyers were deployed at that time.[30]

The intercept-capability was a 2-tiered[31] use of SM-3's in the boost phase and Patriot AC-3's in the event of re-entry in Japanese airspace during a potential failure.[32]

Supplemental to SM-3 capability the Japanese system incorporates an airborne component. Together discrimination between platform tests and satellite launches is possible by analyzing the angle of ascent.[33]


Australia has begun to acquire various weapons and technological equipment for installation on warships in order to be part of the Aegis BMD. There is evidence that these systems will be installed on its new destroyer which is still under construction, the Hobart class air warfare destroyer.[34][35][36][37]


In 2012 the system will achieve an "interim capability" that will for the first time offer American forces in Europe some protection against IRBM attack.[38] Planned SM-3 missile bases include Romania (2015) and Poland (2018).[39]

Political debate

Tom Laliberty of Raytheon said that President Barack Obama was forced to shift from a land based missile defense system to a sea based one because of the difficulties of coordinating with partner nations.[40]

There is discussion about the effectiveness of this plan. Some critics say it might not be as effective as a ground-based defense. Also, the US Defense Department has said it would be just one component of a wider defense which might also include ground-based facilities.[41] There are some reports that SPY-1 radar systems onboard some individual warships are not being maintained properly. A Navy panel headed by retired Vice Adm. Phillip Balisle has asserted that since the late 1990s there has been an over-emphasis on saving money, including cuts in crews and streamlined training and maintenance, which has led to a drastic decline in readiness, and has left Aegis combat systems in low state of readiness.[42] And in spite of a reduction in the objective for the number of Aegis armed warships to field, the USN will still fall short of this reduced objective under the FY2012 shipbuilding plan for the next 30 years.[43]

However Russia considers the system to be so formidable that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that they would "react in the sharpest manner" to any American ships armed with the system found near their shores.[44]

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 a 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).

According to Roger Cliff, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, while the SM-3 would have limited effectiveness against ASBMs, the U.S. arsenal has a "variety of potential countermeasures" and the "kill chain" of a potential DF-21D attack would be so "complicated" that it would provide a "number of opportunities to defeat the attack". He also stated that unless one country integrates an "entire system of systems" to make this work, the missile itself would be pretty "useless".[45]

“Some countries might buy them just to impress their neighbors, but their combat effectiveness would be negligible unless the country also invested in the needed detection, data processing, and communications systems".[45] - Roger Cliff

Flight tests to date


The first flight test for the Navy Theater Wide program, Control Test Vehicle-1 (CTV-1) was on 26 September 1997, using a SM-2 Block IV missile modified for exoatmospheric flight, and launched from the USS Russell (DDG 59). The missile self-destructed soon after launch after veering off course. The root cause of this problem was due to a defect in the Navy's existing SM-2 Block IV ordnance, not due to any guidance modifications for high altitude flight. The Navy and BMDO thus characterized the flight as a "No-Test."


The next 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 launching 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 launching 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 being developed. 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 launching 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 was the first interception of a ballistic missile from a sea-based platform.


File:Fm3 kw ir.jpg

Infrared image of the FM-3 Test Target just prior to impact

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.

June 13, 2002 was also the date that the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty), which limited the development of a strategic anti-ballistic missile system (to be considered strategic Aegis would need capability against the current Russian ICBMs and SLBMs).


FM-4 Mission Logo

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 ordnance will be destroyed at intercept. The USS Lake Erie was the launching 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.[46]


FM-6 Mission Logo

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 interception. The USS Lake Erie was the firing ship.[47]

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.[48]

FTM 04-2 (FM-8)

FM-8 Mission Logo

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, termed 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 score the sixth interception for the program out of seven tries on November 17, 2005. The USS Lake Erie was the firing ship.[49]

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 launching 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 (a Kongō class destroyer) was stationed off the coast of PMRF and observed all FTM-10 events.[50]


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.[51]

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 launching 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.[52]


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 Ticonderoga-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 launching ship.[53]


On November 6, 2007, the USS Lake Erie launched two interceptors off the island of Kauai, Hawaii, engaging two short-range ballistic missile targets almost simultaneously.


(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.[54]


On June 6, 2008 at 08:13 HST, the USS Lake Erie successfully intercepted a terminal phase target with a modified SM-2 Block IV interceptor. The aim of this mission was to test the interception and destruction of a short range ballistic missile target launched from a mobile launch platform.[55]

Stellar Daggers

March 26, 2009 USS Benfold simultaneously engaged a SRBM in terminal phase and a cruise missile using SM-2's.[56]


See also

Boost Phase Missile Defense Systems

Midcourse Phase Missile Defense Systems

Terminal Phase Missile Defense Systems

External links


  1. Navy Tactical Reference Publication 1-02, Navy Supplement To The DOD Dictionary Of Military And Associated Terms, April 2011. Page 3-4. [1]. Accessed on 04 April 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 Aegis BMD web page, U.S. Missile Defense Agency official website.
  3. Sea-Based Ballistic Missile Defense - Background and Issues for Congress
  4. RIM-161 SM-3 (AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense),
  5. NY Times article, 9/18/09.
  6. Russia's Putin praises Obama's missile defense decision, LA Times, 9/19/09.
  7. No missile defense in Eastern Europe,, 9/17/09.
  8. Obama sharply alters missile defense plans By William H. McMichael, Sep 19, 2009,
  9. Article on Sm-3 missile system,, 10/4/09.
  10. Lockheed Martin Successfully Completes Formal Testing of Second-Generation Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Capability
  11. "Force Multiplier Capability Of Aegis Demonstrated." Space Daily, 15 December 2010.
  12. Administration eyes land-based SPY, by Philip Ewing, Oct 24, 2010.
  13. Turkey to Host U.S. Missile Defense, PR Newswire, Oct. 18, 2010.
  14. Aegis Ashore web page, U.S. Missile Defense Agency official website.
  15. International Cooperation web page, U.S. Missile Defense Agency official website.
  16. "Inside Aegis Ashore". News Blog. United States Naval Institute. 8 August 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-03. 
  17. Lawana Godwin, (12/23/2003),"NSWC Port Hueneme Division Honored with Standard Missile-3 Model" [2]
  18. pamphlet 09-MDA-4298 (4 MAR 09)
  19. "MDA announces next 6 BMD ships", Navy Times, 12 November 2009.
  20. CRS RL33745 Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress April 08, 2010
  21. U.S. Speeding Up Missile Defenses in Persian Gulf, By DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT], NY Times, January 30, 2010 .
  22. Swaine, Michael D.; Swanger, Rachel M.; Kawakami, Takashi (2001). "Japan and Ballistic Missile Defense. RAND Report". 
  23. Shabalin, Maxim (2011). "The Logic of BMD Procurement in Japan (1994-2007)". 
  33. Union of Concerned Scientists: Unha-2 analysis, March 18, 2009
  34. Lockheed Martin Begins Testing on Australia's First Aegis Weapon System,, August 12, 2009.
  35. Testing begins on Australia's first Aegis missile-defense system, NTI - Global Security Newswire, 14 August 2009.
  36. Missile defence: The Australian angle, by Sam Roggeveen,, 18 September 2009.
  37. Australian Air Warfare Destroyer Construction in Choppy Seas,, October 28, 2010.
  38. "NATO chief determined to move ahead with missile shield." AFP, 14 May 2012.
  40. Inside the Navy's next-generation destroyer
  41. New missile defences in Europe:Shooting down a plan, Economist, Sept 24th 2009.
  42. Study says Aegis radar systems on the decline, By Philip Ewing, Navy Times, Wednesday Jul 7, 2010.
  43. O'Rourke, Ronald. "CRS RL32109 - Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress." CRS, 18 October 2012.
  44. "Russia will ‘React Sharply’ to US Aegis Ships – Deputy PM." Ria Novosti, 12 November 2012.
  45. 45.0 45.1 "Behind the China Missile Hype". 20 January 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  46. Rick Lehner (June 18, 2003), "Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Flight Test Conducted", Missile Defense Agency News Release [3]
  47. Chris Taylor (December 11, 2006), "Aegis Missile Defense Flight Test Successful", U.S. Missile Defense Agency [4]
  48. Cheryl Irwin (February 24, 2005), "Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Flight Test Successful", Missile Defense Agency News Release [5]
  49. Cheryl Irwin (November 17, 2005), "Sea Based Missile Defense 'Hit-to-Kill' Intercept Achieved", Missile Defense Agency News Release [6]
  50. Jan TenBruggencate (23 June 2006), "Missile passes another test", The Honolulu Advertiser [7]
  51. Chris Taylor, (December 7, 2006), "For Your Informantion", Missile Defense Agency [8]
  52. Chris Taylor (April 26, 2007). "Successful Sea-Based Missile Defense 'Hit-to-Kill' Intercept". 'Missile Defense Agency News Release'. [9]
  53. Chris Taylor (June 22, 2007). "Sea-Based Missile Defense 'Hit-to-Kill' Intercept Achieved". 'Missile Defense Agency News Release'. [10]
  54. MDA press release for JFTM-1. 17 December 2007.

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