Sea-Based Ballistic Missile Defense -- Background and Issues for Congress [Updated September 19, 2007]   [open pdf - 242KB]

"As part of its effort to develop a global ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, the Department of Defense (DOD) is modifying 18 Navy cruisers and destroyers for BMD operations, and has deployed a large BMD radar -- the Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX) -- on a modified floating oil platform. The eventual role of sea-based systems in the worldwide U.S. BMD architecture has not been determined. The overall issue for Congress discussed in this report is: What should be the role of seabased systems in U.S. ballistic missile defense, and are DOD's programs for seabased BMD capabilities appropriately structured and funded? Potential strengths of sea-based BMD systems include the ability to conduct BMD operations from advantageous locations at sea that are inaccessible to groundbased systems, the ability to operate in forward locations in international waters without permission from foreign governments, and the ability to readily move to new maritime locations as needed. Potential limitations of sea-based BMD systems include possible conflicts with performing other ship missions, higher costs relative to ground-based systems, and vulnerability to attack when operating in forward locations. […] Potential specific issues for Congress regarding sea-based BMD systems include the role of sea-based BMD systems in the eventual U.S. BMD architecture, whether there should be a new acquisition program to fully replace the canceled Navy Area Defense (NAD) sea-based terminal-defense BMD program, the number of SM-3 interceptors planned for procurement, the proposal to equip the SM-3 Block IIA missile with a Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV), the potential role of the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) in sea-based BMD operations, procurement of the planned CG(X) cruiser, development and testing of the Aegis BMD system, and potential allied seabased BMD programs."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL33745
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