Sea-Based Ballistic Missile Defense-Background and Issues for Congress [Updated October 9, 2007]   [open pdf - 227KB]

"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. The Aegis BMD system in its current (i.e., Block 2004) configuration is intended to track ballistic missiles of all ranges, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and to intercept shorter-ranged ballistic missiles. The Block 2004 configuration is not intended to intercept ICBMs. Current DOD plans call for modifying 3 Aegis cruisers and 15 Aegis destroyers with the Aegis BMD capability by the end of 2009."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL33745
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