As the Navy marked the installation of new Aegis Ashore missile defense systems in Europe, officials with Lockheed Martin -- the manufacturer of the system -- said they're hoping to speed up efforts to get Navy ships outfitted with the latest Aegis technology.
In a May 12 press call, Jim Sheridan, director of the Navy Aegis program for Lockheed Martin, said a "palletized" approach that installed the weapons system aboard ships using cabinets on skids would allow the company to install the newest version of the Aegis software 50 percent faster.
Sheridan said the newest Aegis version, the Baseline 9 variant, was now being fielded at a constant pace across the fleet. Baseline 9, which includes the capability to track and shoot down ballistic missiles in the higher and lower atmospheres, was officially certified in January.
Both the Navy's Arleigh-Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyers and its Ticonderoga-Class Guided Missile Cruisers use the Aegis combat system.
The modular system, called "relocatable equipment units" will allow the program to install the needed hardware with greater ease, potentially allowing the Navy to update Aegis ships past the current level of two ships per year.
A recent pilot demonstration of a relocatable equipment unit installation, he said, showed "something that previously took days and weeks to install happen[ing] in a matter of an hour."
For the Navy, the speed is important, he said, as the service has to coordinate deployment schedules and typically can't afford to have more than two Aegis ships offline per year for modernization.
"I think if we could cut the time in half, we could get another ship every year," Sheridan said. "That’s why the modularity concepts are key."
Meanwhile, he said, new destroyers and cruisers are coming online with the newest system already installed.
"By 2021, between modernization and new construction, there will be 41 Baseline 9 ships in the U.S. fleet," Sheridan said.