Report

Sea-Based Missile Defense

Expanding the Options

Report from Andrew Grotto and Rebecca Grant provides near- and long-term recommendations and analysis for expanding sea-based missile defense.

A modified Standard Missile 2 interceptor is launched on June 5, 2008 from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie during a Missile Defense Agency test to intercept a short-range ballistic missile target. (AP/US Navy)
A modified Standard Missile 2 interceptor is launched on June 5, 2008 from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie during a Missile Defense Agency test to intercept a short-range ballistic missile target. (AP/US Navy)

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Sea-based missile defense options are expanding. The fleet is rapidly evolving from a limited, experimental system to an operational, battle-ready missile defense capability. Since 2002, there have been numerous successful tests of realistic engagement scenarios. Sea-based missile defense works – and it’s ready to do more.

The United States Navy plans to deploy a fleet of 18 cruisers and destroyers equipped to engage missiles from the sea before the end of the decade. Multiple theater commanders want and need the assets.

Several allies are also major players in sea-based defenses. The United States has partnered with Japan in expanding Aegis capabilities, and cooperative activity with several other allies is ongoing. Sea-based missile defense Aegis has the potential to serve the security interests of the United States and its allies around the globe.

This promising track record of performance is the result of focused, sustained investment. Sea-based missile defenses are now a full-fledged option for demonstrating commitment, preventing rogue states from holding allies at risk in the battlespace, and intercepting launches in critical areas.

This investment should continue. Near-term modifications to the Aegis system will expand the range of what can be done with sea-based assets. Improvements to radar tracking components and development of new missiles will lay the groundwork for future flexibility. Looking ahead, future intercepts may require a missile with more speed and punch to better protect the United States and its allies from emerging ballistic missile capabilities in rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.

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