Aegis Ashore Adapts Sea-Based Missile Defense System to Protect Europe

By Edward Lundquist
The U.S. Navy is building on the success of the Aegis Combat System’s ballistic missile defense capability — literally — to protect Europe.

Four guided-missile destroyers (DDGs) with the proven Aegis BMD system are now forward deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations, as part of the European phased adaptive approach (EPAA). Joining those ships is Aegis Ashore, a land-based version of the same Aegis BMD capability located at Deveselu, Romania. The Deveselu site sits on a former Warsaw Pact airbase.  

Aegis Ashore was developed and constructed by a unique government-industry team created to build a shipboard weapon system at a shore facility to meet the EPAA requirements.

EPAA Phase II was declared complete on May 12 when the Deveselu site was operationally certified. A second Aegis Ashore missile defense system will be located in Redzikowo, Poland, and will be operational by 2018 as part of Phase three.

Construction for the new base was managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Kellogg Brown and Root was the construction manager.  

The ashore-system deckhouse structure, which houses the SPY-1 radar arrays and combat information center, looks similar to a DDG. That’s by design.

To reduce risk and cost for the shore based sensor, launchers and missiles, the Missile Defense Agency and the Navy applied the same solution as the ship-based system. The equipment and software is the same as DDG 113, and reflects the latest Lockheed Martin Aegis “baseline” and the newest Raytheon SM-3 IB missile and the MK 41 vertical launching system, supplied by the two contractors, which is found throughout the fleet and with navies around the world.  

There are several phases to the EPAA.  Phase one began in 2011 with the arrival of the Norfolk-based BMD-capable Aegis guided missile cruiser, USS Monterey, CG 61, in the Mediterranean. A forward-based Army Navy/transportable radar surveillance system, AN/TPY-2, was also installed in Turkey.  

Phase two includes the ashore site at Deveselu, with Aegis Baseline 9 and upgraded SM-3 Block IB interceptors, along with the four Aegis BMD-capable guided missile destroyers now stationed at Rota, Spain, and “forward deployed” to support ship stationing requirements for the U.S. 6th Fleet.  

With Phase three, the second ashore-system in Poland will augment the four ships and the Romania Aegis Ashore site for a fully integrated system. The result is that with each successive phase, the EPAA will have more advanced systems and missiles.

To validate the concept and further reduce risk, the prototype shore-based Aegis deckhouse was built at Lockheed Martin’s Moorestown, New Jersey, facility, next to the “Cruiser in the Cornfield” that has been used to test the original Aegis system. Aegis first went to sea aboard the test ship USS Norton Sound in 1973, Ticonderoga-class ships starting in 1983, and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in 1991.

While the Moorestown site could radiate and track targets, it couldn’t actually fire missiles. So to fully test its capabilities, the Missile Defense Agency completed the Aegis Ashore missile defense test complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.  The Aegis system employed in Hawaii was first integrated into the deckhouse destined for Romania, built on site at Moorestown, where initial tests were conducted. The weapon system was then removed and shipped to Hawaii where it was integrated with a duplicate deckhouse built there.

The site has conducted three live-fire flight tests, and will continue to be the test platform for Aegis Ashore, Baseline 9, and SM-3 capability through delivery of Phase III in 2018, said agency spokesman Christopher Szkrybalo.

Brendan Scanlon, Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Ashore program manager, said the goal was to take the proven sea-based Aegis system and bring it to land with as few changes as possible.

There are some differences. On the ship, the launchers are located near the radar. On land, the launchers are farther away. “That was the principal modification to the Aegis Weapon System software. We hardly had to change anything at all. We modified less than one half of one percent of the code base,” he said.

The cable lengths between components didn’t need to be as long as they are on the ship, but were kept at the same length so there would be no impedance mismatches. Likewise, a stationary building doesn’t need a gyro, but this version has two, because it needs heading inputs.

The equipment was installed on 6x12 foot palletized portable equipment units that could be assembled, tested and easily transported as a unit on a “skid” inside a container. Even the radar arrays were installed in large frames prior to shipping. With these frames, the array could be lifted into its place in the deckhouse in about 20 minutes whereas for a ship it would take weeks to be fully installed.

The naval architect firm of Gibbs and Cox has been in the design and integration role starting with the first DDG 51 up until the most recent ships of the Arleigh Burke class, and now with Aegis Ashore.

According to Gibbs and Cox Chief Engineering Officer Tom Schubert, it’s a big challenge to make a sophisticated combat system fit and function on a surface combatant.  

“It’s close to what we do every day, even though it’s a completely different application,” said Schubert. “It’s a shipboard combat system from an Aegis destroyer implemented in a land-based building.”

Gibbs and Cox used the same design process of model management and design integration it uses for ships, and applied it to the land facility. The different stakeholders involved worked together at the design center, hosted by Gibbs & Cox at its Arlington, Virginia, offices. The team included Lockheed Martin for the combat system; program executive office C4I; Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia for machinery controls; Black and Veatch, the architect/engineering firm; Missile Defense Agency; and Gibbs and Cox.

Keith Harper, vice president and group manager of the Gibbs and Cox design group, said the participants worked together capturing ownership and responsibility for all of the systems requirements. “Through all the reviews, it’s all about ownership and everybody agreeing that they’re ready to proceed to the next step, and at the end of each meeting you have a set of milestones that everybody agrees to.

“This visibility and transparency for all the participants reduces the risk later of somebody saying that something doesn’t work,” said Harper.

“We took all the models from each of the participants and merged them into a design control model, which is a very familiar role for us,” said Joseph Daley, senior program manager. “The result was a 3D CAD model that includes all the systems, including the combat system; command and control; mechanical and electrical; and heating, cooling and air conditioning.”

“Our process for CAD model development is a series of reviews with increasing expectations for the maturity of the models,” said Daley. “The earlier arrangement review will have the location of the major elements. By the time you’re through with the final review everything is located and verified to meet requirements, such as door swings for maintenance access, required clearances around radar waveguides, and human factor considerations are accounted for.”

Daley said most of the participants have worked together on naval programs before and were familiar with the process, but for Black and Veatch, it was a new experience.

Some aspects of Aegis Ashore are identical to an Aegis destroyer, such as the radars and waveguides, but stability and buoyancy are not factors. There are also some things that you don’t have to worry about on a ship. For example, there are stairwells that meet land-based safety building codes dimensions — which take up a considerable amount of space — instead of the ladders and hatches found on ships.  While some aspects of the construction adhere to typical military specifications or marine classification requirements, it also had to meet the appropriate building code for wherever that particular structure is being built.

“People who build buildings typically don’t build ships,” Scanlon said. “But together we had a very collaborative environment to understand how to integrate it all together. The partnership between industry and government was key to reduce risk and to our success.”

“While the equipment, missiles, computer programs and sensors are essentially the same, the difference is how we put it together, along with the requirement to be able to take it down,” said Lockheed’s Director of Aegis Navy programs Jim Sheridan. “We have to be able to put the puzzle pieces together and take it apart. This isn’t the way we build ships now. We are partnering with the Navy to take lessons learned from Aegis Ashore and apply it to shipbuilding.”  

Aegis and the standard missile have both undergone a continuous evolution.

The standard missile 3 is identical to the sea-based version. The only difference is its launch point, with the launchers located apart from the deckhouse.

“SM-3 is a three-stage missile with the ability to reach far out into space to engage enemy ballistic missiles before they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere,” said Dean Gehr, director for the land-based standard missile for Raytheon Missile Systems. “It can engage a wide variety of advanced threats from short to medium to intermediate range ballistic missiles. It has much greater range and defended area than any other ballistic missile interceptor deployed today. This is a key reason that it was selected to be the primary component of the phased adaptive approach defending all of NATO.”

“Land-basing provides added flexibility,” said Gehr. “The same SM-3 interceptor proven in nearly 30 successful, hit-to-kill space intercepts and widely deployed on Navy ships around the world is now available for land-basing.”

According to Gehr, the SM-3 has a proven, evolutionary roadmap. The progression began with the widely deployed SM-3 Block IA and advanced to the SM-3 Block IB, which is presently in production and deployed. The most recent evolution is the next generation, longer range SM-3 Block IIA, which began flight testing last year and will be deployed in 2018.

“Land-based SM-3 is very flexible and can take cues from external sensors like the Raytheon TPY-2 X-band radar,” Gehr said. “The TPY-2 radar allows SM-3 to maximize its reach and defended area.”

“When Aegis was conceived, we never thought we would be shooting down warheads in space,” said Sheriden.

One more reason the system is like a ship — it’s manned by highly trained sailors. “Their battlespace is outerspace,” said Cmdr. Jonathan Lipps, Aegis Ashore Romania commanding officer.

Edward Lundquist is a contributing writer.

Photo: The Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Romania (Missile Defense Agency)

Topics: Missile Defense

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