Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lockheed Martin Ramps Up Aegis

The U.S. Navy has successfully completed a tracking exercise using the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system during Atlantic Trident 2011, which runs through Jan. 25.
The guided missile cruiser USS Monterey and destroyers USS Ramage and USS Gonzalez tracked the short-range ballistic missile target launched from NASA’s Wallops (Va.) Flight Facility, the service said Jan. 21. The missile fell harmlessly into the Atlantic Ocean. Monterey and Ramage took turns tracking and simulating engagement of the target while Gonzalez, a guided-missile destroyer, tracked the target, the Navy says. All three ships tracked the missile, and Monterey and Ramage provided simulated target solutions, but the ships fired no missiles.
The relatively new and expanding role for BMD missions for Aegis-equipped vessels has provided a renaissance for both the system and the ships that employ them, according to Jim Sheridan, Lockheed Martin’s director of the Navy Aegis program. The company is in the midst of a major Aegis modernization effort for vessel upgrades, testing its BMD capabilities and tweaking the Aegis multi-mission signal processor, which enables Aegis-equipped ships to conduct BMD and ship-self-defense missions without missing a beat.“On earlier BMD ships, you have to set up the ship for the situation you’re walking into,” says Lisa Callahan, vice president for Lockheed Martin Maritime Missile Defense programs. “With the microprocessor, you now have balance. You don’t have to prioritize. You’re not sacrificing one for the other.”
“You can now shift radar resources in real time,” Sheridan says. “It was functional right out of the gate.”
Lockheed Martin used the processor in October to identify and track a target, a third test in a series of scheduled exercises that began early last year.
The earlier tests focused on the anti-air warfare and BMD capabilities, while the fall test tracked a target with a higher resolution capability, the company says, showing Aegis could handle more complex threats. Lockheed Martin conducted another test in December, Sheridan says, flying aircraft against the Aegis development site. The next processor demonstration is scheduled for March. The processor is scheduled for installation on a number of Aegis-equipped guided missile destroyers and cruisers starting in 2012 as part of the system’s modernization program.
The multi-processor development, Aegis modernization program and expanding BMD role is putting the Aegis team to the test, Sheridan says. “It’s the sheer magnitude” of the work, he says, adding that Aegis-related work had not been this robust since the program’s inception.
Last year, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E) noted concerns with the upgraded DDG-51 Aegis weapon system baseline’s ability to work in the littorals, possibly facing asymmetric, high-speed surface threats.
Lockheed Martin officials acknowledged issues with the early baseline efforts but said those problems had been addressed. In its most recent report, released earlier this month, DOT&E makes no mention of any other issues with the Aegis modernization program. The report says data from the most recent tests are still being analyzed.

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