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.
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.
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.
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.