US Navy’s first Aegis baseline 9 equipped cruiser tests upgrade in missile shoot

The first US Navy guided-missile cruiser to receive the Aegis baseline 9 combat system upgrade tested the updated combat system with a live-fire missile exercise off the coast of Southern California.

The historic missile exercise was carried out by USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) on October 24.

Mobile Bay is the first cruiser to upgrade from the Aegis baseline 8 combat system to the updated Aegis baseline 9 combat system (9 on 8) which increases the accuracy, range and weapons capabilities of the ship.

“We are testing a system that brings advanced war fighting capabilities to the ship and to the fleet,” said Capt. James L. Storm, Mobile Bay’s commanding officer. “We are validating these capabilities before bringing them to other ships.”

The cruiser fired two Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) missiles and one Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) missile from the forward launcher on the ship’s forecastle. The primary objectives of testing the fire control loop with the 9 on 8 computer program, as well as test some newly introduced advanced features, were successfully demonstrated.

One SM-2 missile engagement was accomplished using only the SPQ-9 radar system, a first in US naval history.

“It’s exciting to lead the effort for the surface community,” said Storm. “It feels good that our 30-year-old ship is one of the most advanced in the fleet.”

Mobile Bay previously upgraded to the Aegis baseline 8 combat system in 2010 as part of a cruiser modernization initiative. In addition to extensive modernization of structural, mechanical, and electrical components of the ship, the legacy Aegis weapons system computing suite was removed and replaced with commercial off the shelf hardware (known as Technical Insertion-08), bringing the weapons system into an open architecture environment.

This open architecture foundation made further combat system improvements using the Aegis baseline 9 common source library and some minor hardware changes to the ship’s computing suite needed to support improved graphics and data processing.

“In a matter of weeks, we were able to significantly upgrade the combat system capabilities of this ship and we will continue providing software updates, as needed, to increase capability in response to emerging threats and requirements,” said Capt. Andrew Biehn, the Aegis Fleet Readiness Officer for Naval Sea Systems, Command Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems.

“Specifically, bringing baseline 9 on 8 to Mobile Bay enables her to employ the SM-6 missile, conduct Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA), and employ the latest Aegis weapons systems capabilities against air and missile threats.”

The Aegis baseline 9 combat system update was a one-year long joint effort that started in October 2016 between the crew of the Mobile Bay, Department of the Navy civilians and defense contractors.

Navy civilians and contractors were brought on board Mobile Bay on Oct. 20, 2017 to assist the crew with training, testing and troubleshooting in preparation for the first live-fire event using the updated system.