Thanks to the nearly $50 billion investment the United States has made to date in the Navy’s AEGIS fleet air defense system, America already has deployed the infrastructure
– platforms, launchers, missiles, sensors, command and control systems and operating personnel
– necessary to provide an early, world-wide defense against ballistic missile attack. Basically all that is needed now is to put new "front-ends" on missiles that are beginning to come into the Navy’s inventory, revise some associated software and allow AEGIS ships rapidly to share missile tracking and targeting data obtained by land-, sea-, air- and space-based assets.
Once such incremental improvements are made, these assets can begin providing significant anti-missile protection for large parts of the globe within a few years’ time. For example, US warships routinely deployed in the Persian Gulf and eastern Mediterranean could be able to fire on missiles launched by Israel’s enemies before they come within range of the Arrow’s interceptors. Such attrition will greatly increase the effectiveness of the protection afforded by the Israeli system. And, if the anti-missile potential of the AEGIS system is properly exploited, the same system could provide highly effective protection against shorter-range missiles aimed at the Jewish
state (so-called "theater" ballistic missiles) and longer-range (or "strategic") missiles aimed at the US.
In an era of budgetary restraint, it is important to note that
– thanks to the large prior investment – the AEGIS approach affords the opportunity to secure such a dual benefit at a small fraction of the cost of alternative approaches. A blue-ribbon panel sponsored by the Heritage Foundation determined that 22 ships and 650 missiles could be so configured for between $2-3 billion
– less than the outlay for the construction of one of the US Navy’s most modern warships.
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