Aegis Today and Tomorrow
The rapid pace of military technology development and dissemination creates a constant challenge for national leaders, military planners and operators, acquisition authorities and their industry partners. Systems must meet today's threats, and continuously evolve to incorporate new requirements and remain relevant for the future.
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Enter, the U.S. Navy's (USN) Aegis Weapon System. As the Combat System Engineering Agent for Aegis, Lockheed Martin has produced, integrated, delivered, and supported radars and combat systems for over five decades of evolution and innovation. Lockheed Martin and the Aegis Weapon System continue to outpace evolving integrated air and missile threats, introducing new capabilities, like the latest generation of advanced solid state radar technologies, to provide world-class defense and ensure future safety and security.
In service on 10 international ship classes with over 118 ships at sea, the US Navy's Aegis is the most deployed naval combat system in the world. It has evolved to meet new threats and incorporate new technologies, while respecting the five foundational "cornerstones" established during its development at the height of the Cold War:
- COVERAGE SUPERIORITY: The system must provide 360 degree coverage to the maximum height and range
- FASTEST REACTION TIME: Minimize the time from initial threat detection to weapon release
- SUPERIOR FIREPOWER: Control numerous missiles in flight simultaneously
- ENVIRONMENTAL RESISTANCE: Overcome man-made and environmental interference
- CONTINUOUS AVAILABILITY: Operate 24/7 in all warfare areas
For Aegis to remain ahead of evolving threats, key to the program's success is a disciplined system engineering process combined with constant incorporation of new technologies. From a system characterized by dedicated military computers tightly coupled to sensors and weapons in a relatively inflexible architecture, Aegis has evolved to an "open" architecture that permits the incorporation of new technologies, more rapid deployment of capability upgrades, and new opportunities for collaboration with international partners. Aegis' Chief Architect, Rear Admiral Wayne Meyer, instilled an engineering discipline that still guides the program to this day. His mantra, "build a little, test a little, learn a lot," still holds true in our development processes.
Aegis has evolved to incorporate new technologies with the development of the Common Source Library (CSL), enabling customers to rapidly integrate new capabilities across the fleet in a "build once, use many times" framework. The Aegis CSL can be used across a variety of ship classes and land-based systems to perform a wide range of missions. Lockheed Martin applies its unique combat system expertise to deliver a capability that supports the diverse missions of the surface Navy while applying a common, open architecture across the entire fleet and around the world.
Jon Rambeau, vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin, said the company is "working to implement model-based engineering processes across the board with the goal of getting the same quality product we've always delivered but getting that to the fleet much more rapidly. So, we're focused on speed of capability to make sure we're keeping the fleet relevant." One of these capabilities pushed to the Aegis fleet is ballistic missile defense. Aegis is the only combat system to complete a ballistic missile defense engagement and is routinely tested against different ballistic threat profiles.
Lockheed Martin is currently integrating multiple new radar types into Aegis, further demonstrating a new degree of adaptability in the system. Most recently, a number of international partners have selected the new AN/SPY-7 radar, a completely scalable, software-defined radar. The solid state design gives SPY-7 the ability to provide radar coverage 24/7/365 with significantly improved performance and the ability to continue operating even while undergoing maintenance. Canada, Japan, and Spain have selected SPY-7 as the maritime sensor on each of their future warship classes, a total of 22 ships.
The MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) is the most reliable, combat-proven, multi-mission launcher for the U.S. and international navies. As the only launching system capable of simultaneously accommodating the weapon control systems and their missiles for any warfighting mission – anti-aircraft, anti-surface, anti-submarine, ballistic missile defense and land attack – MK 41 can accept a growing list of international missiles. With over 4300 firings, MK 41's 99.9% reliability is unmatched among other naval launching systems.
Working with the U.S. Navy and industry partners, Lockheed Martin has embarked on a digital transformation of Aegis – using model-based system engineering, virtualization, and third party partnerships – to ensure that Aegis meets customer needs today and tomorrow. Through constant experimentation and technology development Aegis is obtaining the ability to integrate and cooperate across warfare domains with a wider Joint Air Defense Command and Control (JADC2) architecture. The ability to share decision-quality information across a network that includes other ships, shore-based C4ISR nodes, and aircraft such as the F-35 and land-based effectors such as Patriot PAC-3, will be critical to future capabilities.
The Aegis system has proven its flexibility and adaptability for international navies for over 50 years. A leading example is Lockheed Martin's partnership and collaboration with Spanish shipbuilder Navantia which has spanned over two decades. Beginning with Spain's first series of F-100 Aegis frigates in the mid-1990s, Navantia and Lockheed Martin have demonstrated, in partnership with the Spanish and U.S. Navies, how Aegis can be designed into a frigate-sized combatant, delivered, and installed at the shipyard, tested, brought into commissioned service, and supported throughout the ship's life cycle. This relationship, using a variety of commercial and government-to-government business models, has proven itself successful in subsequent programs in Norway, Australia, and Spain, augmented by important national industry contributions in every case.
DELIVERING THE DIGITAL FUTURE OF AEGIS
The Aegis Weapon System continuously evolves and rapidly delivers updates at the speed of relevance to outpace threats. Guided by the five "cornerstones" and governed by a rigorous system engineering process, Aegis has demonstrated its ability to incorporate new technologies and adapt to the needs, both operational and industrial, of its many partner nations. With a worldwide fleet of over 100 Aegis ships at sea, supported by continued investments in development and sustainment by the USN and international partners, Aegis is well positioned to continuously innovate and deliver capabilities to the warfighters for the next 50 years.
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The views expressed are those of Lockheed Martin and do not constitute an endorsement by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).