Air Defense: Aegis Comes Ashore




July 18, 2008: Israel has been so impressed by the U.S. Navy's Aegis anti-missile system, that it wants to buy and install one to help defend Israel from Iranian and Syrian missiles.

So far, the Aegis system has knocked down nearly 90 percent of the missiles fired towards it. This includes shooting down a low flying space satellite. The Aegis system consists of a modified version of the Standard anti-aircraft missile and the Aegis radar system, that shoots down ballistic missiles. This system, the RIM-161A, also known as the Standard Missile 3 (or SM-3), has a range of over 500 kilometers and max altitude of over 160 kilometers. The Standard 3 is based on the failed anti-missile version of the Standard 2, and costs over three million dollars each. The Standard 3 has four stages. The first two stages boost the interceptor out of the atmosphere. The third stage fires twice to boost the interceptor farther beyond the earth's atmosphere. Prior to each motor firing it takes a GPS reading to correct course for approaching the target. The fourth stage is the 20 pound LEAP kill vehicle, which uses infrared sensors to close on the target and ram it. The Aegis system was designed to operate aboard warships (cruisers and destroyers that have been equipped with the special software that enables the AEGIS radar system to detect and track incoming ballistic missiles).

By the end of the year, the U.S. Navy will have 18 ships equipped with the Aegis anti-missile system. Japan also has four Aegis warships being equipped with this anti-missile capability. Other nations are equipping some of their ships with Aegis.

It's unclear how quickly an Aegis anti-missile could be set up in Israel. There's no reason the Aegis system could not be operated from a land installation. Aegis was designed to operate in the harsh conditions (both tropic and arctic) normally encountered at sea, so operating on land is not a problem. Cost is another matter. Getting Aegis ashore quickly, in a year or so, would cost about a billion dollars. The manufacturers (Lockheed Martin for the radar and Raytheon, which also makes the Patriot, for the missiles) would certainly be eager to open up this new market. There are many nations seeking reliable protection from hostile neighbors armed with ballistic missiles.

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