Aegis lessons could shape U.S. Navy's
Aviation Week & Space
Technology/June 13, 2011
Contractors vying for the U.S.
Navy’s proposed Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) say they can
deliver the system for much less than the government’s cost estimate
because of their extensive experience building similar radar programs
in recent years.
Such arguments are becoming
increasingly important as Washington scrambles to find bill-payers
while eyeing expensive defense programs.
The U.S. Government
Office estimates the AMDR would cost $15.7 billion —- close to the
Navy’s entire annual shipbuilding budget. The service says the estimate
is based on data provided
by AMDR program
officials, but contractors
say the GAO calculations rely mostly on
historical data on building sophisticated radar systems largely from
scratch. That fails to account for technology and production
advancements made by other military projects that can be leveraged to
develop and deliver AMDR, contractors say.
costs for the AMDR—based on what we understand
from the data -— is
significantly less than the development costs cited
by the GAO,”
says Brad Hicks, Lockheed’s
vice president of naval radar programs.
Navy AMDR officials did not even flinch at such an estimate
indicates their commitment to the program and acceptance of its high
cost, as well as the rising importance of ballistic missile defense
(BMD) as a Navy mission priority.
AMDR combines an S-band radar
BMD and air defense and an X-band radar for horizon search, with a
controller to integrate simultaneous operation of the two. The Navy
also is revamping its Aegis radar system to perform BMD missions— while
opening up the network to more contractor competition.
The enhanced Aegis system is
its first deployment on a U.S. Navy vessel, the Ticonderoga-class
guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey CG-61, in the Mediterranean. It is
serving as part of the U.S.’s European Phased Adaptive Approach for BMD
The enhanced BMD upgrades
lead ship and fleet commanders to rethink how they deploy the upgraded
ships, says the Monterey’s commanding officer, Capt. Jim Kilby. “It’s
like how the Tomahawk [missile] was when it first rolled out into the
The Navy and Missile Defense
Agency (MDA) plan to nearly double the number of BMD-capable Aegis
ships to 41 by the end of 2016. Some Pentagon and Navy officials have
started to talk openly about possibly changing the U.S. nuclear
posture, cutting back from the traditional nuclear triad of
intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers and ballistic-missile
submarines to a dyad focused on the Navy and MDA efforts.
But developing the BMD focus
time and money, as the Aegis system has shown. The February 2008
shoot-down of a defunct U.S. space satellite by the USS Lake Erie CG-70
proved the system’s capability, and an MDA test in April demonstrated
its “launch-onremote” system against an intermediate- range warhead
separating from its booster missile. But it took nearly three decades
for the Navy and industry to bring Aegis-like capability to the fleet.
“Aegis is a very large,
and complex system,” says Bill Bray, director of Integrated Combat
Systems for the Navy’s Program Executive Office, Integrated Warfare
When Aegis baselines were
developed in the 1970s, “combat systems were developed for a platform
they were landing on and every platform ended up with its own combat
system,” Bray says.
Cruisers and destroyers have
own Aegis systems—and certain groups of each ship would get their own
baselines, depending on when they were delivered or available for an
upgrade. They all have the basic Aegis core, but with different
baseline capabilities, integrated systems and system architectures.
This means that when there is
problem, all the baselines have to be addressed; it is not possible to
fix just the core software package and redeliver it.
Aegis development cost
range from $30 billion to $80 billion, including ship integration,
according to some analysts. Even Lockheed Martin says it is not sure,
but the latest Aegis system industry standard cost is about $1 billion
Some critics say an “Aegis
has started to grow in the Navy, steering the service along any course
that benefits the radar system and away from anything that does not. “I
don’t buy that ‘Mafia’ reference,” Hicks says. “Yes, we’re the
incumbent, but we recognize the importance of the competition and
However, Navsea says it wants
end the “30-year monopolies” of Aegis and some
other programs and develop
systems that are designed more openly to
Navy’s acquisition options.
The Aegis Advanced Capability
Build (ACB) upgrades are meant to do just that,
starting with ACB 08 in 2008
and continuing next year with ACB 12.
The Navy expects to release a
request for proposals by the end of this month
for ACB 16, which should open
Aegis to a full-fledged competition and
move the Navy closer to AMDR
Lockheed touts its “Aegis
in attempting to capture AMDR work,
citing its work on the
transmit-receive module packages and digital
beam-forming, a key AMDR
The company says it
AMDR-like beam-forming with
the Advanced Radar Technology
Integrated System Testbed
(Artist), which combines
advanced, multifunction S-band active
Leveraging its work and
with active, electronically
scanned array (AESA) radars
for aircraft, Northrop Grumman
cites its own digital
beam-forming project, the U.S. Marine
Corps G/ATOR, which features
a panel of AESA radars with
distributed receiver and
exciter modules for antiair- warfare modes.
“We don’t see another way
this [AMDR] except with an AESA,” says Arun Palusamy, Northrop
Grumman’s director of integrated air and missile defense and naval
Northrop Grumman also points
its participation in the DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer program,
which initially was planned to mate X‑ and S- band radars in an
AMDR-like suite, such as the one being developed for the CVN-78
Ford-class aircraft carrier.
Raytheon, the prime
the DDG-1000 radar system, collaborated with Northrop on the Cobra Judy
Replacement program that marries shipboard S- and X-band phased arrays
to collect BMD data. Raytheon provides the Cobra Judy Replacement
S-band system’s back-end signal processing.
“AMDR is similar to the work
Zumwalt, CVN-78 and Cobra Judy,” says Denis Donohue, Raytheon’s
director of above-water sensors. AMDR will be a magnitude better than
anything the Navy has fielded or planned, says Capt. Doug Small,
Navsea’s AMDR program official.
Already BMD is causing Navy
officers to reexamine their missions. “We’re no longer defending just a
ship,” Kilby says. “We’re defending cities. We’re defending whole