Aegis Ashore is a 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 platforms used on Aegis ships including the AN/SPY-1 radar, the MK 41 Vertical Launch System, 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 sites for Aegis Ashore deployment are at Deveselu, Romania and Redzikowo, Poland. The AN/TPY-2 X-Band Radar in Turkey will also provide early tracking data to the Aegis Ashore sites on missiles launched from Iran towards Europe.
The declaration of Initial Operating Capacity in December 2015 for the Deveselu Aegis Ashore site marks the first deployment of the Aegis Ashore system. 2 After the U.S. announced the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) in 2009, the Navy negotiated a hosting agreement with Romania and broke ground in 2013. 3 The Missile Defense Agency successfully tested the configuration of the Romania site for the first time in December 2015. 4 Groundbreaking for the site in Poland is expected in 2016 with initial operations planned for 2018. 5 Plans for each Aegis Ashore site include three MK 41 VLS tubes with eight cells apiece for a total of 24 interceptors per site. 6 The Romania site will use the SM-3 Block IB initially, but both sites are slated to change to the SM-3 Block IIA once it becomes operational.
Congress has also debated the potential of deploying air defense assets at Aegis Ashore sites. Adding the anti-air capability to the sites is simply a matter of arming certain VLS cells with SM-2 or SM-6 interceptors, as the Baseline 9 processing software used at the sites will have the ability to process threats from aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles simultaneously. Members of Congress argue that it will be important to be able to defend the sites from air attack should they be required to intercept ballistic missiles headed toward Europe. 7 Furthermore, after 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. 8
While Japan has not formally requested purchase of Aegis Ashore, the Foreign Military Sales office is currently studying whether to allow such sales to foreign nations. The Aegis Ashore variant of the Aegis weapons system is less potent than the ship-based variant, which can be loaded with offensive weapons like Tomahawks, and proponents of the sale suggest that nations that already deploy Aegis ships should receive significant priority in approval for Aegis Ashore. 9
- Missile Defense Agency, “Aegis Ashore Fact Page,” September 23, 2015, http://www.mda.mil/system/aegis_ashore.html. ↩
- 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. ↩
- 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. ↩
- 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. ↩
- 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. ↩
- Ibid. ↩