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Monday, March 25, 2013

Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Ronald O'Rourke Specialist in Naval Affairs

The Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, which is carried out by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Navy, gives Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers a capability for conducting BMD operations. Under MDA and Navy plans, the number of BMD-capable Navy Aegis ships is scheduled to grow from 24 at the end of FY2011 to 36 at the end of FY2018.

Under the Administration’s European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) for European BMD operations, BMD-capable Aegis ships are operating in European waters to defend Europe from potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as Iran. On October 5, 2011, the United States, Spain, and NATO jointly announced that, as part of the EPAA, four BMD-capable Aegis ships are to be forward-homeported (i.e., based) at Rota, Spain, in FY2014 and FY2015. BMDcapable Aegis ships also operate in the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf to provide regional defense against potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as North Korea and Iran.

The Aegis BMD program is funded mostly through MDA’s budget. The Navy’s budget provides additional funding for BMD-related efforts. MDA’s proposed FY2013 budget requests a total of $2,303.0 million in procurement and research and development funding for Aegis BMD efforts, including funding for Aegis Ashore sites that are to be part of the EPAA.

Issues for Congress for FY2013 include:

  • the reduction under the proposed FY2013 budget in the ramp-up rate for numbers of BMD-capable Aegis ships over the next few years; 
  • the cost effectiveness and U.S. economic impact of shifting four Aegis ships to Rota, Spain; 
  • U.S. vs. European naval contributions to European BMD; 
  • the lack of a target for simulating the endo-atmospheric (i.e., final) phase of flight of China’s DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile; 
  • the capability of the SM-3 Block IIB Aegis BMD interceptor; and 
  • concurrency and technical risk in the Aegis BMD program.

Date of Report: March 14, 2013
Number of Pages: 95
Order Number: RL33745
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