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Air Defense: Aegis Triumphant
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August 4, 2008: The U.S. Navy, capitalizing on the success of its SM3 anti-missile missile, wants to equip more ships with it. So far, the seagoing Aegis radar system has used SM-3s to knock down nearly 90 percent of the test missiles fired towards it. This includes shooting down a low flying space satellite. There are 18 U.S. Navy ships equipped with SM-3, and the navy would like enough money to equip all of its Aegis equipped ships (90) with the SM-3. This is expensive, as it costs a few million bucks to upgrade the Aegis radar and install the new software. And then there are the SM-3 missiles, which cost three million dollars each. The navy won't say how many SM-3 missiles are on each ship equipped to handle them, but it's probably something like at least a dozen. So to equip over 80 additional Aegis ships with SM-3 would cost over three billion dollars.

The Aegis anti-missile system consists of a modified version of the Standard anti-aircraft missile and the Aegis radar system, modified to track incoming ballistic missiles. 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.

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 completed equipping 18 ships with the Aegis anti-missile system. One reason the navy recently cancelled its expensive new DDG-1000 class of destroyers was because these were built to support amphibious and coastal operations, and did not have a radar that could easily be converted to use SM-3 missiles. The DDG-1000 also cost 2-3 times as much as current Aegis destroyers. With missile defense seen as a higher priority than providing new coastal combat capability, the DDG-1000 was killed, and money saved could be used to build more Aegis destroyers, and convert more current destroyers and cruisers to use SM-3.

Japan also has four Aegis warships being equipped with this anti-missile capability. Other nations are equipping some of their ships with Aegis. Currently, five navies operate 108 Aegis equipped ships, and are thus able to upgrade to SM-3. Israel also wants to buy a land based Aegis, which would cost about $50 million, plus the costs of the SM-3 missiles. This is not a problem, as the original development version of Aegis was built on land, and still serves for continuing testing and development.


Next Article → IRAQ: History Repeats Itself

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displacedjim       8/4/2008 12:50:03 PM
This is outstanding news, if accurate.  Not so much making more Aegis ships SM-3 capable, although that's a good thing.  The real news is stepping up the SM-3 production, if true.  I don't know the actual numbers, but a bit of internet searching a few months ago led me to conclude that we really only have a few dozen SM-3 missiles, and past production schedules only look to double that number after several years.  We need far more than that.
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flyingarty    SM-3   8/4/2008 12:56:21 PM
Totally agree, Aircraft Carriers are just too valueable to loose. Flyingarty
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davod    BMDS   8/4/2008 3:10:03 PM
Don't get your hopes up for more missiles .  SM3 is part of the hated Ballistic Missile Defence System.  You will be lucky if the  Navy is allowed to keep the systems now in insalled.
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sjdoc    ChiComm response?   8/4/2008 7:15:35 PM
So how is our great trading partner (and Wal-Mart supplier) taking this proliferation of mobile defensive anti-missile systems - so obviously being purchased and deployed to reduce the terroristic effectivness of the peaceful Peoples' Republic's offensive ballistic missile regiments as well as the value of similar Red Chinese missile systems sold to various disruptive  Islamic nation-states?
Could put a serious crimp in both short- and long-term Chinese Communist diplomatic planning, as well as "domestic" policies with regard to a certain big island smack in the middle of the China sea.
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davod    Taiwan   8/5/2008 6:16:12 PM
It is quite possible that one or other of the political parties in Taiwan will vote to rejoin China.
If the Chinese do decide to attack Taiwan they will use overwhelming force.  There will not be enough SM3's to stop a ballistic missile attack.  Whether the Chinese would use nuclear ballistic missiles to attack what they consider to be Chinese territory is debatable.
Depending on the US government's standing in the world at the time of an attack, the Chinese may well use ballistic missiles to neutralize US submarines and aircraft carriers.
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