Aegis: An Evolutionary Tale of Success


In March, 1983, President Ronald Reagan proposed a new a missile defense system to protect the United States from Soviet missile attack. Dubbed “Star Wars” by the media, the system never became operational.

Two months earlier, though, the U.S. commissioned the guided missile cruiser USS Ticonderoga – the first ship equipped with the Aegis Combat System.  Developed by Lockheed Martin, Aegis revolutionized naval surface warfare and has evolved into an integral part of our nation’s and our European allies’ ballistic missile defense (BMD) system.

Aegis integrates and coordinates more than 20 separate on-board systems that enable surface combatants to simultaneously attack land targets, submarines and other surface ships, while automatically implementing defensive measures against enemy aircraft and missiles.

The world’s premier naval surface defense system, Aegis is also used by the Australian, Japanese, Norwegian, South Korean and Spanish navies. There are currently 100 Aegis-equipped ships, including 27 with Aegis BMD capability.  Ships equipped with Aegis BMD can engage ballistic missiles and perform long-range surveillance and tracking missions.

As part of its Phased Adaptive Approach for European missile defense, the U.S. will deploy both Aegis BMD capable ships and a ground-based Aegis Ashore configuration that uses the proven Aegis BMD technology.

Since the Ticonderoga’s commissioning, Aegis has continued to evolve. So far this year:

  • The Lockheed Martin team successfully tested Baseline 9, which gives Aegis an Integrated Air and Missile Defense capability that enables it to simultaneously conduct anti-air warfare and BMD missions while also conducting ship self defense.
  • The Navy certified Aegis BMD 4.0.1 – the system’s latest evolution that enables the Navy and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to defeat longer range and more sophisticated ballistic missile threats.
  • The USS Lake Erie successfully tracked, engaged and destroyed a short range ballistic missile target in a live-engagement exercise, which marked the first time a ship used the second generation Aegis BMD system to protect itself from an incoming threat. It was also an important step for the second phase of the Phased Adaptive Approach in Europe.

For more than 40 years, Aegis has continued to evolve. The Lockheed Martin team and the U.S. Navy have partnered to take Aegis from an anti-ship missile system to the basis for the U.S. approach to global missile defense – at sea or on shore – and to protect our fleet, our nation and our allies.