It’s easy to look back from the perspective of 2016, with scores of Aegis cruisers and destroyers populating the U.S. Navy’s fleet – and with Aegis ships now serving as the Navy’s primary surface combatant – and think that the journey toward building an Aegis fleet was simple or straightforward. It was not. A full description of that journey is vastly beyond the scope of this post. But for those readers wanting more, the 2009 Naval Engineer’s Journal, “The Story of Aegis: Special Edition” contains a rich and detailed description of the Aegis program – how it came into being, where it is today, and where it is going in the future.
As Adm. John Harvey, former Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, explained, what made the original Aegis program so successful was “a single-minded dedication to the pursuit of technical excellence.” That commitment to excellence permeated the Aegis community even before the first ship of the class, the cruiser Ticonderoga (CG 47), was commissioned in January 1983. It likewise remains embedded in Aegis today.
The heart of Aegis – and the U.S. Navy’s fleet air defense capabilities – is the Aegis Weapons System. Consisting of the AN/SPY-1 phased-array radar, the Mk 99 fire-control system, the Weapon Control System, the Command and Decision suite, and Standard missiles, Aegis can simultaneously detect and track hundreds of threats and friendly/neutral aircraft and engage multiple targets simultaneously. When combined with the MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), the AN/SQQ-89 underwater combat system, command-and-control, and self-defense weapons and systems, the weapons system acts as the central component of the broader Aegis Combat System.
Read more about the United States journey to provide world-class missile defense in my series of articles on missile defense on the Defense Media Network’s website here