The Travails of Sea-Based Missile Defense

The flight test of a sea-based missile defense system in the Pacific was aborted yesterday after an interceptor missile failed to launch from an Aegis cruiser, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said.

It was the latest setback in an ambitious sea-based missile defense program that will cost more than one billion dollars in 2007.

“In developing a global ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, the Department of Defense (DOD) currently is modifying 18 Navy cruisers and destroyers for BMD operations, and has placed a large BMD radar — the Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX) — on a modified floating oil platform,” according to a new report of the Congressional Research Service.

But sea-based systems are still far from providing a satisfactory resolution to the quest for a reliable missile defense.

The new CRS report (which does not fail to mention that Aegis “is named after the mythological shield carried by Zeus”) is a superb presentation of the current state of sea-based missile defense. Full of hard-to-find details, the 37 page document asks and begins to answer a range of questions about the future of this program.

CRS does not release its reports to the public. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Sea-Based Missile Defense — Background and Issues for Congress,” December 4, 2006.

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