Japanese Force Upgrade Increases BMD SM-3 Block 1A Sea-Based Mid-Course Defense Capability.
In a new development designed to prove interoperability of the Aegis ballistic Missile Defense system with U.S. naval forces, the 9,845-ton Japanese destroyer Kongou successfully launched a Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) Block 1A scoring a direct hit on a medium range ballistic missile target at the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii. JDS Kongou became the first Japanese ship to use the SM-3 in the interception that took place more than 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean. This test marked the 12th successful interception by the Aegis BMD system using the Raytheon SM-3 missile.
An SM-3 interceptor is launched from an Arleigh Burke DDG 51 class destroyer as part of the multi-layer sea-based mid-course missile defense system. The DDG 51 class will soon begin to be replaced by the new DDG-1000 class, lead ship designated USS Zumwalt. For additional perspective on the revolutionary DDG-1000, please see our post on this site entitled: US Navy Developing Surface Fleet of Tomorrow .
Both China and the United States have recently been successful with hard-kill destructions of communications and surveillance satellites in near earth orbit. Traveling at speeds well beyond the design parameters of the interceptors, these much publicized shots have forever re-defined the BMD battle space.
A notably increased tempo of interoperability and command jointness is underway in an effort to address heightened mission requirements for the sea based ballistic missile mid-course defense system. JDS Kongou is the first of three Kongou class destroyers to integrate the Aegis BMD block IV standard, with additional vessels in the class receiving Aegis capability in one-year intervals between 2007 and 2010. An additional two Aegis SM-3 Block 1A systems will be delivered to two 10,000-ton Atago class destroyers.
Intelligence sources and industry media have widely reported on these force upgrades in response to rapidly developing Chinese and North Korean missile developments. In a report issued by the Taiwan National Security Bureau (NSB), military analysts have reported that China is capable of launching multiple concentrated attacks on more than 100 of Taiwan’s highest value infrastructure and military installations. The report stated that China has fielded more than 1,400 Dong Feng-11 and Dong Feng-15 short-range ballistic missiles, and that Beijing is progressing with their development of the Dong-25 that was used in a successful shoot down of a satellite in late 2007. For additional perspective on the shooting down of communications and surveillance satellites with interceptors, please see our February 2008 post on this site entitled: Rationalizing the Missile Defense Agency Mission.
The NSB report also claims that Beijing had more than 200 YJ-62A anti-ship cruise missiles deployed in the cross-strait theatre, an increase of more than 100 from the 2006 estimate. An additional 1,000 war fighting vessels of the People’s Liberation Army Navy are anchored at bases in southern China and present the threat of a naval blockade scenario.
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Dong Feng Type 11 short range ballistic missile is moved into firing position using a mobile launch platform. Dong Feng Type 11 is a tactical ballistic missile meant to replace the shorter range Scud missile.
As the nature and tempo of these threats continue to evolve, the role of Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense assets will expand in engagement capability. Today there are three Aegis cruisers and three Aegis destroyers equipped with the latest “mission ready” BMD-capable weapon system, armed with the SM-3 interceptors. These vessels are capable of intercepting short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense also serves as a forward-deployed sensor by extending the battles pace and providing early warning of an intercontinental ballistic missile launch.
Capable of moving under it’s own power, the recently deployed sea-based X-band radar has become a critical detection and tracking asset to the sea-based mid-course defense system.
Aegis sensors transmit track data to the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense command center via the BMDS. This Long-Range Surveillance and Track capability assists in the defense of the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, by providing tracking data to cue other system sensors and initiate a Ground-Based Midcourse Defense engagement. This capability is resident on all BMD-equipped Aegis ships.
As the threat of intercontinental ballistic missiles continues to evolve, a broader force capability will be required of the Aegis sea based mid-course defense system. On June 23, 2006, Japan and the U.S. signed an agreement to transition the research of a Joint Cooperative Research Project on the Standard Missile-3 Cooperative Development Program. This program is designed to focus on joint development of a 21 inch diameter variant of the Standard Missile-3 to intercept longer-range ballistic missiles, thereby increasing the engagement and strike envelope of the Aegis SM-3 interceptor.
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