Most national security and military experts agree that the threat of ballistic missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction represents the primary existential threat to the United States. One only need read the extensive reporting of North Korea’s recent ballistic missile and nuclear tests to understand that this is a clear and present danger.
But few realize it is the U.S. Navy that is doing the heavy lifting to protect the homeland and our forces forward from this threat. U.S. Navy Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) is the key. While the story of Aegis writ large has been told more extensively in many fora, most notably in the 2009 Naval Engineer’s Journal, The Story of Aegis: Special Edition – the story of Aegis BMD, that is, how Aegis BMD evolved from just a nascent idea into arguably the strongest pillar of national BMD, is a relatively new story.
When President Ronald Reagan asked, in his now-famous speech; “What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, but instead that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?” it caused a sea change in the entire concept of U.S. national BMD. That single statement still provides the organizing impulse for the United States’ ballistic missile defense efforts.
When the U.S. Navy commissioned USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) in 1983, it was, to many, merely the first ship of a new class of warships, one among many in a U.S. Navy that numbered well over 500 ships. Then a tiny fraction of an almost 600-ship Navy, Aegis cruisers and destroyers have now become the Navy’s primary surface combatants. And, importantly, Aegis has enabled the nation and the Navy to take a significant step in accomplishing President Reagan’s vision three decades ago.
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.