MOORESTOWN, N.J., Aug. 14 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin Thursday began testing the Aegis weapon system before its deployment on Australia's Air Warfare Destroyer fleet of three new warships. The tests would last four months and, once successful, the system would be installed on the first of the three Australian AWD vessels being fitted out with Aegis by Lockheed Martin.
The Hobart-class destroyers, being built by ASC Pty Ltd., longtime contract shipbuilders to the Australian navy, are designed as multipurpose naval ships with complex roles in both peacetime and war. Each ship requires a crew of about 100 people, according to Australian defense sources.
The warships are about ultimate control: controlling environments above, around and below them with the latest weapons, communications and systems technologies.
Their mission involves providing air defense for accompanying ships, land forces, infrastructure in nearby coastal areas and self-protection against attacking missiles and aircraft.
The ships' peacetime operations include law enforcement, civil defense aid, collection of environmental data, assisted evacuations and diplomatic roles.
Away from the vessels, Lockheed Martin during its land-based tests is replicating a ship's superstructure and then going for the integration of Aegis subsystems, including radar, computing hardware and cabling.
At the same time, experts will be testing the completed Aegis Weapon System to ensure it is seaworthy before it leaves the company's various test centers.
Orlando Carvalho, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin's surface/sea-based missile defense systems, said the land-based testing process was critical to ensuring the reliability of Aegis on board the warships while they were at sea.
After the tests, the Aegis Weapon System will be shipped to the ASC shipyard in Adelaide, Australia, for installation on board the warships.
It is the first time the Aegis Weapon System is being used by the Australian navy. Aegis is already deployed on board vessels operated by the navies of Japan, Norway, South Korea and Spain.
Despite its reputation and effectiveness, however, only 91 ships worldwide are fitted with the Aegis system, defense sources said.
The system has been tested during deterrence and combat operations undertaken by other naval forces, including military events in the Gulf, defense sources said.
Analysts said the Australian purchase improved prospects for Aegis to win new clients in navies currently undergoing extensive modernization and expansion, including those in the Middle East and Asia.
Lockheed Martin says Aegis has an edge over competing systems. "The Aegis Weapon System is the world's premier proven naval defense system," the company said. "Its precision S-band SPY-1 radar and missile system seamlessly integrate with its own command and control. Its ability to detect, track and engage targets ranging from sea-skimming cruise missiles to ballistic missiles in space is unmatched."
Although the company gave no details, it cited Aegis' track record with more than 1,100 years of at-sea operational experience shared by the 91 ships currently in service. Put together those ships have launched more than 3,500 missiles in tests and "real-world operations," said the company.