In mid-November 2020, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and a consortium of Navy agencies collaborated to launch an SM-3 Block IIA Standard Missile from the Aegis destroyer USS John Finn (DDG-113) for an “engage on remote” test against a ballistic missile. The test—Flight Test–Maritime 44/“Stellar Lancer”—was the first-ever demonstration of the Aegis combat system software baseline 9.C2.0 for intercontinental ballistic-missile (ICBM) defense.
The engagement outside the atmosphere over the Pacific met a congressional requirement to conduct the test before the end of 2020. Raytheon Technologies’ Missiles & Defense Group developed the SM-3, part of the company’s family of Standard air-defense missiles. Lockheed Martin’s Rotary and Mission Systems business unit, the longtime Aegis system combat systems engineering agent, modified baseline 9.C2.0 to take on ICBMs. The company said the intercept followed four successful European Phased Adaptive Approach Phase 3 demonstrations of the 9.C2.0 baseline against intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
For the test, an ICBM-like target was launched from the Army’s Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, about 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. The command-and-control battle-management communication network created the missile-targeting and fire-control solution and relayed it to the Aegis system on board the John Finn through the Navy’s Link 16 tactical data network. The ship fired the SM-3, which destroyed the target.
The demonstration generated data for continuing work on integration of Aegis computer programs with the Navy’s SPY-6(v) air-and-missile-defense radar, the Navy’s primary ballistic-missile defense (BMD) sensor system. The Aegis BMD baseline is, in a way, both new and old. The company generated the program from the Aegis Common Source Library (CSL), a database of combat-system software programs owned by the Navy and managed by the company. The CSL hosts programs that provide the full range of specific capabilities the Aegis system requires to perform many of the missions mandated over years for the Aegis fleet of Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke–class destroyers.
The latter will be the Navy’s primary BMD platforms. The new Flight III ships—beginning with the future Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125), now being built by Huntington Ingalls—will employ the SPY-6(v) radar and the Aegis system running Baseline 10. Variants of the SPY-6(v) Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar will be backfitted to the Flight IIA destroyers (DDGs 79 to 124 and DDG-127) and to aircraft carriers, some of the big-deck amphibious ships, and the Constellation-class frigates (formerly called FFG[X]) being built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine.
The BMD mission is the leading edge of a fast-moving evolution in the design, fielding, and continuing upgrade for fleetwide combat systems. The Navy already has pushed ahead to extend the integration of common combat-system software for BMD and other surface combatant missions throughout the fleet, essentially by pulling the needed capabilities from CSL and supporting industry innovation to lower costs and speed delivery of software upgrades.
For future combat system work, the company has introduced a software development methodology called DevSecOps, a Defense Department–compliant approach to integrating design models with testing to automate and rapidly increase the volume of software module tests. It also has teamed with Innovative Defense Technologies to devise a so-called Aegis Enterprise Platform as a Service to enable rapid delivery of program upgrades to the Navy.
Meanwhile, while Raytheon was the big winner of the intense competition with Lockheed Martin in October 2013 for the SPY-6(v) for the Flight IIIs, Lockheed moved ahead to develop the SPY-7 as a backfit for older cruisers and destroyers. The Canadian, Spanish, and Japanese navies all are buying the SPY-7, and MDA will install it at the Aegis Ashore facility in Hawaii.