On Patrol: The Navy’s Ballistic Missile Defense



The United States is continuing its investment in the research, development, acquisition and deployment of technologies for effective ballistic missile defense for both homeland and regional defense.  A cornerstone of the U.S. ballistic missile defense effort is the capability provided by the Aegis Weapon System and Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) weapons in U.S. Navy ships on the seas and oceans of the world.

Warfighter Capability

  • Aegis BMD cruisers and destroyers are multi-mission surface combatants that serve as an essential element of the most capable Navy in the world and are the backbone of missile defense for the Combatant Commanders.
  • BMD ships are a key component of the overall U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). It integrates ground and sea-based missiles, fixed and mobile radars, as well as space tracking and surveillance platforms through a global Command, Control, Battle Management and Communication (C2BMC) system.
  • Based upon the outstanding success of the Aegis Weapon System and SM-3 in operationally-realistic intercept tests against a variety of challenging targets—23 direct hits in 28 firings—the Combatant Commanders have a high level of confidence in the capability provided by Aegis ships.

Forward Operation

  • BMD ships operate forward in international waters across the world’s oceans providing missile defense capability wherever and whenever needed.
  • Today there are BMD ships operating in the Arabian Gulf and in the Mediterranean to provide regional defense while others are on short recall in the Pacific region in support of homeland defense.
  • To provide effective regional defenses against ballistic missiles, the U.S. Navy and the Missile Defense Agency are executing a Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) to address the growing ballistic missile threat.
  • The PAA can be applied to any region where the proliferation of short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles requires increased missile defenses. The Aegis Weapon System with the SM-3 missile is ideally suited for this mission and is being developed as a land-based system (Aegis Ashore) to complement the capability provided at sea as part of this approach.
  • Between now and 2020, the PAA will be executed in Europe in four phases, with each phase providing increased defensive capability for both regional and homeland defense. It will utilize Aegis BMD ships at sea and Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland, all operated by the U.S. Navy.

Facts & Figures

  • 24 Aegis cruisers and destroyers are configured for BMD; a total of 29 are planned by the end of the year.
  • The Aegis BMD 3.6.1 Weapon System was assessed as operationally effective and suitable under realistic conditions by Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force.
  • The SM-3 is a proven weapon, with 23 intercepts in 28 firings against short to intermediate range targets.
  • The new SM-3 Block IB successfully executed its first intercept of a ballistic missile target on May 9th.


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