PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) conducted a historic missile exercise Oct. 24, to test updated combat systems installed last year.
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. The ship tested the new combat systems update during a live-fire missile exercise off the coast of Southern California.
"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 with 9 on 8, were successfully demonstrated.
One SM-2 missile engagement was accomplished using only the SPQ-9 radar system, a first in U.S. Naval history, and a demonstration of the enhanced capabilities the new updated AEGIS weapons system brings to the fleet.
"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."
Biehn went on to say, "Mobile Bay now has the most advanced integrated combat system in the world. This is proof of the soundness of our combat system modernization plan, using open architecture principles and software upgrades to rapidly provide capability to the warfighter and further increase the lethality of our Surface Navy."
This is demonstrative of the tenets set forth by Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Forces in the Surface Force Strategy.
"These ships are able to support carrier strike groups and amphibious forces, act as the flagship of surface action groups, or operate independently, providing great flexibility to our fleet and joint commanders around the globe," Rowden stated. "The air warfare commander role provided by cruisers to carrier strike groups is particularly critical to mission accomplishment."
Continuing to update these warships is a priority for the Surface Force because of the vast capabilities and combat power cruisers provide to the maritime domain. The Navy's cruiser modernization program will continue to extend the service life of these ships while increasing their capability to take on the most advanced threats in the world.
"Our guided missile cruisers are one of the most diverse and lethal warships in the Surface Force," said Rowden. "They provide our civilian and uniformed military leaders with a persistent, maneuverable warfighting capability, where and when needed around the world."
"The complexity of integrated air and missile warfare is growing more challenging by the day - we need these cruisers, and the follow on to the cruiser, to be as flexible and capable as possible in order to provide command and control of naval forces in the most demanding environments, against the most stressing and dangerous threats," Rowden stressed.
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.
"It's awesome, being recently retired, to come back to a cruiser to train the crew and help them understand the system," said retired Senior Chief Petty Officer Christopher Moore, who now works at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Pt. Hueneme Division. "Being able to interact with the Sailors while achieving mission accomplishment is the icing on the cake."
Moore noted that the AEGIS is the primary shipboard air defense system and the update allows the crew to track and execute enemy missiles and aircraft with more precision using radars aboard the ship.
"It was a team effort to get us here; everyone from the engineers keeping the ship up, to combat systems, and the weapons team," said Storm. "I appreciate everything that got us here today."
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