Aegis Ashore is the land-based variant of the Navy’s Aegis Weapons System and the centerpiece of Phases II and III of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). The system incorporates land-based versions of the various components used on Aegis ships, including the deckhouse, AN/SPY-1 radar, the Mark 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS), and Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors. It is intended to serve as a midcourse defense against medium and intermediate-range missiles. 1 The first two planned Aegis Ashore sites are at Deveselu, Romania and Redzikowo, Poland. The AN/TPY-2 X-band Radar in Turkey provides early tracking data to the Aegis Ashore sites on missiles launched from the Middle East.
In May 2015, the U.S. Congress directed the Department of Defense to study the potential of deploying air defense assets at Aegis Ashore sites, possibly by arming certain VLS cells with SM-2 or SM-6 interceptors.2
Following the North Korean nuclear test in January 2016, PACOM Commander Admiral Harry Harris discussed operationalizing the test Aegis Ashore system at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii to defend the islands.3
Aegis Ashore in Europe
After announcing the EPAA in 2009, the United States negotiated a hosting agreement for Aegis Ashore with Romania and broke ground in 2013.4
The Missile Defense Agency successfully tested the configuration of the Romania site for the first time in December 2015.5
That same month, the United States and Romania made a “Technical Capability Declaration” for the Deveselu site, which was followed by a declaration of Initial Operating Capacity in May 2016.6
Groundbreaking for the site in Poland took place in 2016 with initial operations planned for 2018.7
Each Aegis Ashore site include three MK 41 VLS tubes with eight cells apiece for a total of 24 interceptors per site.8
The Romania site will use the SM-3 Block IB initially, but both sites are slated to include the SM-3 Block IIA once it becomes operational.
Japanese Aegis Ashore
In December 2017, Japan’s Cabinet approved plans to install two Aegis Ashore systems, scheduled to go into operation by 2023.9 Officials sought to acquire the system to counter North Korea’s ballistic missile threat, as well as China’s advanced cruise missile program, although the former is more commonly acknowledged. In a press conference following Cabinet approval, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera explained that “the threat against our national security from North Korea’s nuclear and missile development has become more serious and imminent than before and has risen to a new level,” and that the two Aegis Ashore sites would supplement maritime forces to cover this threat.10
Japanese officials had considered both Aegis Ashore and THAAD, with deployment options being either two Aegis Ashore sites (at ¥70-80 billion each) or six THAAD units (at more than ¥100 billion each).11
Officials chose Aegis Ashore for its wider coverage area and cheaper deployment. Japanese investment in the SM-3 Block IIA and the potential to pair Aegis Ashore with air defenses or even long-range strike options may also have contributed to this decision.
In June 2020, however, Japanese Minister of Defense Taro Kono announced that Japan would suspend plans to deploy the Aegis Ashore missile defense system due to “cost and schedule” concerns, triggering a government-wide review of Japan’s missile defense program.12
- Missile Defense Agency, “Aegis Ashore Fact Page,” September 23, 2015, http://www.mda.mil/system/aegis_ashore.html.
- Megan Eckstein, “House Paves the Way for Japan to Buy Aegis Ashore; Adds Anti-Air Warfare to European Sites,” USNI News, May 18, 2015, http://news.usni.org/2015/05/18/house-paves-the-way-for-japan-to-buy-aegis-ashore-adds-anti-air-warfare-to-european-sites.
- Wyatt Olsen, “PACOM commander Harris supports study of Aegis missile defense for Hawaii,” Stars and Stripes, January 28, 2016, http://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/pacom-commander-harris-supports-study-of-aegis-missile-defense-for-hawaii-1.390955.
- Vince Little, “US, Romania begin work on Aegis Ashore missile defense complex,” Navy Press Releases, November 1, 2013, http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=77406.
- Sam LaGrone, “Aegis Ashore Scores in First Intercept Test,” USNI News, December 10, 2015, http://news.usni.org/2015/12/10/aegis-ashore-scores-in-first-intercept-test.
- Megan Eckstein, “Aegis Ashore Site To Reach ‘Technical Capability Declaration’ This Week, But Not Operational Until Early 2016,” USNI News, December 16, 2015, http://news.usni.org/2015/12/16/aegis-ashore-site-to-reach-technical-capability-declaration-this-week-but-not-operational-until-summer-2016.
- Richard Tomkins, “Work on U.S. BMD complex in Poland expected to start in summer,” UPI News, January 4, 2016, http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2016/01/04/Work-on-US-BMD-complex-in-Poland-expected-to-start-in-summer/6311451927589/.
- Sam LaGrone, “Inside Aegis Ashore,” USNI News, August 8, 2013, http://news.usni.org/2013/08/08/inside-aegis-ashore.
- Daisuke Kikuchi, “Japan approves introduction of Aegis Ashore missile defense system amid North Korea threat,” Japan Times, December 19, 2017, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/19/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-approves-introduction-aegis-ashore-missile-defense-system-amid-north-korea-threat/#.Wr5e-Yjwbcs.
- Megan Eckstein, “Japan Cabinet Approves Aegis Ashore Buy to Supplement DDGs In Ballistic Missile Defense,” USNI News, December 22, 2017, https://news.usni.org/2017/12/22/japan-cabinet-approves-aegis-ashore-buy-supplement-ddgs-ballistic-missile-defense.
- Ryo Aibara, “Tokyo to choose cheaper Aegis option to beef up missile defense,” Asahi Shimbun, June 23, 2017, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706230026.html.
- Masao Dahlgren, “Japan Halts Aegis Ashore Deployment Plan,” Missile Threat, Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 15, 2020, last modified June 23, 2020, https://missilethreat.csis.org/japan-halts-aegis-ashore-deployment-plan/.