Bravo Zulu BMD
By J. MICHAEL McGRATH, National President
Our Navy-Industry Team has
done it again! As the old signal
goes: “Bravo Zulu,” or “Well Done!”
In a little more than six minutes, the crew manning the Aegis
Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)
shipboard weapon system aboard
the USS Lake Erie detected, tracked
and intercepted a target about 12
miles above the Pacific Ocean.
The Navy and Missile Defense
Agency (MDA), which cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program,
are two-for-two in successful intercepts with the sea-based terminal
capability, according to an MDA
release about the June 5 event. The
intercept, which occurred about 100 miles northwest of
Kauai, Hawaii, also was the 14th successful intercept in
16 tries. For Lake Erie, it was the 10th “kill” out of 12.
This test — FTM- 14 — involved a short-range target being launched from a mobile launch platform.
“The USS Lake Erie’s Aegis BMD Weapon System
detected and tracked the target, and developed fire-control solutions. Approximately four minutes later,
the USS Lake Erie’s crew fired two [Standard Missile- 2]
SM- 2 [Block] IV missiles, and two minutes later they
successfully intercepted the target inside the Earth’s
atmosphere,” the MDA release said.
The agency also noted that the test was “the 35th
successful terminal and midcourse defense intercept in
43 tests since 2001.”
Lake Erie, based at Pearl Harbor, is the MDA’s lead
test ship in BMD efforts and, as such, its crew has the
unique opportunity to chart the Navy’s — and the
nation’s — course for missile defense. The ship and
crew grabbed global headlines — and made history —
when the BMD system was given its first real-world
mission in February, firing a modified SM-3 to intercept and destroy a nonfunctioning U.S. spy satellite.
In a Feb. 28 statement to the Senate Armed Services
Committee, Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, said, “Today, your Navy stands ready with the
agility, the flexibility and the competence to do what
no other Navy in the world can do. Last week, we successfully temporarily converted our sea-based ballistic
missile defense program to engage
a failing satellite. Sea-based BMD is
here; it is real and it works.”
He listed sea-based BMD among
critical programs that “require
appropriate, disciplined investment now.” Lake Erie’s crew is on
the cutting edge of technology and
is proving time and again that the
Navy’s portion of the BMD system
is a wise investment.
Aegis BMD is a core mission of
the Navy, a key element in the
nation’s “Cooperative Strategy for
21st Century Seapower” and supports the Sea Shield mission of
“Seapower 21 — Projecting Global
The goals of the June 5 test were to evaluate the BMD
system’s “ability to intercept and kill a short-range ballistic missile target with the Aegis BMD, modified with the
terminal mission capability; the modified SM- 2 [Block]
IV missile using SPY- 1 cue; and system-level integration.”
It was mission accomplished — again — for a system
that requires a highly coordinated effort by Lake Erie’s
crew, the program managers in the Navy and the MDA, as
well as the contractors — Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
A strong ship-based missile defense affords the
United States and its allies freedom of movement and
maritime access as well as defense against future threats.
We are building a fleet that must be flexible enough to
meet the challenges of irregular warfare and asymmetric threats while maintaining a posture of power and
maritime superiority. We must build on the milestones
reached by program players such as Lake Erie.
It is imperative that missile defense receive the
financial support necessary to continue the development, procurement and deployment of technologies to
detect, track and engage medium- and long-range ballistic missiles far from our shores.