Earlier this year we profiled the Defense Science Board’s (DSB) September 2011 report titled “Science and Technology Issues of Early Intercept Ballistic Missile Defense Feasibility.” We noted at the time that the report is about a lot more than early intercept; it highlighted a number of shortcomings of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), some of which also plague the Ground Based Midcourse Defense system. The report was especially startling given that such information doesn’t often make it beyond the classification wall.
One of the most important conclusions of the DSB report is that “The current Aegis shipboard radar is inadequate to support the objective needs of the EPAA mission. For this reason, the TPY-2 land-based radars and the future Navy ship-based Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) upgrade become critical components of the European defense scenarios.” [emphasis mine.]
The report went on to state:
The challenge for an advanced missile defense shipboard radar will be to accommodate the long-range detection and tracking needs to support a robust PAA, wherever it may be required in the world, while fitting within the volume, weight, and power constraints of both back-fit and new Navy combatant platforms. The Navy’s AMDR program is the only program solely focused on that challenge. Continued effort must be made in the years ahead to continue to develop advanced missile defense shipboard radar.
But the Navy’s plans for the AMDR my be unworkable, according to Aviation Week’s Michael Fabey:
Questions over cost and risk are already threatening the U.S. Navy’s Flight III version of the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyer fleet while the program is still in the service’s developmental womb.
Military analysts for a host of government watchdog agencies such as the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congressional Research Service (CRS) and Congressional Budget Office (CBO) have questioned the Navy’s Flight III plans for some time, but it is the GAO review released earlier this year that highlights newly emerging cost and schedule risks.
One big worry is the Flight III ship design’s ability to handle the proposed Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR)— the cornerstone for the ballistic missile defense (BMD) strategy for the nation and the Navy—given the Burke hull’s lack of room for additional equipment.
You can read the whole GAO report cited by Fabey here. The first DDG-51 equipped with the AMDR is not scheduled to have an initial operating capability until 2023. According to GAO:
The Navy faces significant technical risks with its new Flight III DDG 51 ships, and the current level of oversight may not be sufficient given these risks. The Navy is pursuing a reasonable risk mitigation approach to AMDR development, but it will be technically challenging. According to Navy analysis, selecting the DDG 51 hullform to carry AMDR requires significant redesign and reduces the ability of these ships to accommodate future systems. This decision also limits the radar size to one that will be at best marginally effective and incapable of meeting the Navy’s desired capabilities.