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The most recent Missile Defense Agency (MDA) trial last month for the Aegis ballistic missile defense system is moving the agency closer to proving that airborne infrared sensors can be used to cue a ballistic target intercept.
The agency’s ultimate goal is to integrate the disparate elements of a vast ballistic missile defense system—including satellites, airborne infrared data and ground- and ship-based radars—into a single system of sensors and shooters functioning seamlessly. A product of this architecture would be to “launch on remote” and eventually “engage on remote.”
By launching on remote, an interceptor would be fired at a target based on offboard data—in this case, without the USS John Paul Jones Aegis destroyer’s own SPY-1 S-band radar acquiring the target. Once airborne, the host system, the SPY-1, would acquire the target and aid the interceptor as it heads for a kill.
For at least the next bunch of years, there will always be a man in the loop.
Communications are about to take a huge leap forward in the next few years, that will make them both more survivable, and more reliable.