Next year the U.S. Navy is scheduled to start operations of an Aegis missile defense system at a land base at Deveselu in Romania, representing the second phase of a four-pronged program known as EPAA (European phased adaptive approach). This is being undertaken to provide defense against ballistic missiles, with Iran considered the primary threat.
The first phase of EPAA has already been implemented, comprising the Lockheed Martin Aegis air defense system and SPY-1 radar paired with Raytheon’s SM-3 missile on ships of the U.S. Navy in the Mediterranean theater. Phase 2 of EPAA is the first element to be land-based in the Aegis Ashore configuration.
To minimize risk it has been created by simply lifting the in-service elements of the Aegis system from the ship and placing them in a land-based scenario. The first such system, comprising Aegis command and control, SPY-1D radar and Mk 41 vertical launch system, has been constructed at the Pacific Missile Test Range at Barking Sands, Hawaii. This installation conducted the first test of the Aegis Ashore with a firing in May of an SM-3 Block IB control test vehicle. The trial interceptor lacked a warhead and was fired against a target simulated in the system to prove the basic elements of the system.
A second Aegis Ashore system has been completed at the Missile Defense Agency’s facility in Moorestown, New Jersey. This system is now ready for transfer to the Romanian site later this summer, and is scheduled to become operational with 24 SM-3 missiles next year. A second test of the Hawaii-based Aegis Ashore is planned for next year, involving a live intercept.
The Romanian Aegis system will initially employ the Block IB version of the SM-3 missile, which is in low-rate initial production. Block IB achieved operational capability at sea earlier this year. This version has numerous improvements over the IA, including a variable-throttle attitude control system and a two-color imaging infrared seeker. The Aegis system for Romania employs the current BMD 5.0 software standard, and will be integrated into a wider defense network that includes forward-based Raytheon TPY-2 radars, including one located in Turkey. The TPY-2 will initially detect and track targets before handing over the track to the Aegis system.
For Phase 3 of EPAA a second land-based Aegis Ashore battery is to be installed at Redzikowo in Poland, scheduled to become operational in 2018. This will fire the Block IIA version of SM-3 with Aegis BMD 5.1 software. This upgrade can be applied to other Aegis systems so that they can fire the new version of the missile.
Co-developed with Japan, the Block IIA confers greater velocity and more range on the SM-3 system, offering a greater capability against IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missile) threats. It employs a larger body but can still be fired from the Mk 41 vertical launcher, as demonstrated in launches of propulsion test vehicles last year. During 2015 the tests of Block IIB will involve launches of test vehicles with greater functionality, leading to guided tests against live targets in 2016.
Beyond the Poland deployment the EPAA roadmap calls for a system using the Block IIB interceptor some time after 2020, but the fourth phase remains a research and development program only. In the meantime, Raytheon sees a number of opportunities for its SM-3 missile, including the application of the Aegis Ashore concept to other parts of the world such as Japan and Korea. The missile is also being offered to the Royal Netherlands Navy, whose four De Zeven Provinciën-class air defense frigates have compatible Mk 41 launchers and a system based on the Thales SMART-L and APAR radars that can track ballistic missiles.