The major surface combatants in the United States Navy (plus a number of ships in foreign navies) use the Aegis combat system. Centered around the AN/SPY-1 radar, this system has been used to protect the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers from aerial threats. But this system is now being used to protect more valuable things – on land – like your city.
The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) launches a RIM-161 SM-3 surface-to-air missile.
(U.S. Navy photo)
According to materials obtained at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, one active-duty system is already active in Romania — and by the end of this year a second system will be active in Poland. These systems use the RIM-156 Standard SM-2 Extended Range Block IV missile, the RIM-161 Standard SM-3, and the RIM-174 Standard SM-6 Extended Range Active Missile.
The primary missile is the RIM-161. This missile has already proven it can hit targets in orbit – one was used by the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) to shoot down an errant satellite in 2008. The missile is designed primarily for the anti-ballistic missile role, and is designed to secure a direct impact on targets.
A RIM-161 SM-3 launches from a Mk41 vertical launch system.
(Missile Defense Agency photo)
Japan has also acquired Aegis Ashore to protect against North Korean missiles. The system has been involved in 46 tests, and has succeeded 37 times, an 80.4 percent success rate against ballistic targets. With a track record like this, it’s hard to understand why Aegis Ashore is not being placed on land in the United States.
This has not been a new development. A number of U.S. Navy ships – and some Japanese ships – with Aegis have been modified to shoot down ballistic missiles. But Aegis is also going ashore for active duty, protecting against the threat of ballistic missiles. This seems to be a very natural approach, after all. Much research and development has already been done on the system, and it’s easy to train personnel to use it.