MOORESTOWN, N.J. — With the U.S. Navy’s continuing focus on further developing the ballistic missile defense (BMD) capabilities of the Lockheed Martin Aegis ship defense system, a new testing site is being planned in Hawaii to mirror other BMD testing facilities there, Lockheed officials acknowledge.
Work should start on the site within the next couple of years, Lockheed officials say.
Aegis has been a stalwart ship-defense system for decades and the backbone not only for the current Navy destroyer fleet, but also the template for modernizing older ships and the core defense network for the vessels going forward.
Lockheed already has an Aegis testing facility here, the so-called cruiser in the cornfield that the company has used to upgrade the ship-defense system through the years. The reference is to the full-scale Navy topside cruiser profile — including the Aegis radar equipment — visible to those driving past the company’s site in the South Jersey farmlands.
One of the latest developments for the Aegis system has been a multi-mission signal processor that better enables the Navy ships to shift from ship-defense mode to BMD missions. While the ships have had the capability to switch missions, the processor makes it possible to do it much more quickly and seamlessly.
The BMD mission has become increasingly important to the Navy and the nation in recent years, Lockheed officials say. The service and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) are working jointly to develop the Aegis missile defense capabilities, with MDA taking on the lead role for Aegis Ashore.
“BMD is definitely being emphasized by the Navy going forward,” says James Sheridan, director of Lockheed’s Navy Aegis programs.
The Navy is looking to better leverage the inherent Aegis tracking capabilities that have been refined for ship air defense for BMD needs, says Lisa Callahan, Lockheed vice president for maritime BMD programs.
“The Navy has embraced ballistic missile defense,” she says. “The focus is on integrating air and missile defense.”
The Navy and MDA plan to use certain Aegis-equipped ships to intercept missiles during the midcourse and terminal flight phases, as well as provide surveillance support to other BMD elements to help defend the U.S., deployed forces and allies.
With that growing focus on BMD missions, Lockheed officials say, the testing and training facility is being set up in Hawaii. “There will be an Aegis Ashore facility in Hawaii,” Sheridan says, adding that work on the complex should begin in 2013.
Callahan says the facility is part of the effort to specifically test and refine Aegis BMD capabilities even as the company continues to upgrade the system’s ship-defense ability. “We are keeping pace with the threats,” she says, “which are becoming more and more complex.”