The AEGIS System was designed as a total weapon system, from detection to kill. The heart of the system is the AN/SPY-1, an advanced, automatic detect and track, multi-function phased-array radar. This high powered (four megawatt) radar is able to perform search, track and missile guidance functions simultaneously with a track capacity of more than 100 targets. The first Engineering Development Model (EDM-1) was installed in the test ship, USS Norton Sound (AVM 1) in 1973.
The computer-based command and decision element is the core of the AEGIS combat system. This interface makes the AEGIS combat system capable of simultaneous operations against a multi-mission threat: anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare.
The Navy built the first Aegis cruisers using the hull and machinery designs of Spruance class destroyers. The commissioning of USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) opened a new era in surface warfare as the first Aegis ship outfitted with the Vertical Launching System (VLS), allowing greater missile selection, firepower and survivability. The improved AN/SPY-1B radar went to sea on USS Princeton (CG 59), ushering in another advance in Aegis capabilities. USS Chosin (CG 65) introduced the AN/UYK-43/44 computers, which provide increased processing capacity.
In 1980, a smaller ship was designed using an improved sea-keeping hull form, reduced infra-red and radar cross section and upgrades to the AEGIS Combat System. The first ship of the DDG 51 class, USS Arleigh Burke, was commissioned on the Fourth of July, 1991. The DDG 51 class was named after a living person, the legendary Adm. Arleigh Burke, the most famous destroyerman of World War II.
DDG 51s are constructed in flights, allowing technological advances during construction. The first 21 destoryers (DDG 51 throguh DDG 71) were identified as Flight I DDGs. Flight II, introduced in fiscal year 1992 (FY 92), incorporated improvements to the SPY radar and the Standard missile, active electronic countermeasures and communications. Flight IIA, introduced in FY 94, to DDG 79 and follow-on destroyers, and added a helicopter hangar with space for two multi-mission helicopters. AN/SPY-1D(V) introduced improvements in littoral environments, starting with USS Pinckney (DDG 91).
Modernization of Aegis cruisers and destroyers is a top priority for Navy leadership. Combat System Architecture decisions for existing cruisers and destroyers are being made with the goal of separating software and hardware to create a networked computing environment. The combat system software will also be componentized to enable reuse for in-service and new construction ships. The AEGIS fleet modernization program encompasses a series of modifications and upgrades using Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) networking system infrastructures, and Multi-Mission Signal Processor (MMSP). The Multi-Mission signal Processor capability was added supporting simultaneous Anti-Air Warfare and Ballilstic Missile Defense against multi-mission threats starting with USS John Finn (DDG 113). AEGIS Weapon System (AWS) and AEGIS Combat System (ACS) modernization efforts will increase cruisers and destroyers capabilities against current and future threats, extend service life and increase interoperability.
The Navy has recently decided to restart construction of new DDG 51s. The new Aegis destroyer will utilize software componentized to enable reuse and COTS networking and system infrastructures during installation, modifications, and future upgrades. The AEGIS destroyers will incorporate new technologies such as the SPY-1D(V) with Multi-Mission Signal Processor (MMSP), the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP), Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) 5.0, and the AN/SQQ-89(V) Anti-Submarine Warfare/Undersea Warfare Combat System (ASWCS/USWCS).