The deployment of the USS Monterery (CG-61) earlier this year as part the first phase of establishing missile defense in Europe has already produced information that will allow improvements to the Navy’s premier sea-based system, Lockheed Martin [LMT] said yesterday.

Nick Bucci, Lockheed Martin’s director of development for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense program, told reporters that Monterey‘s deployment in March has allowed the firm to glean new information about the system’s performance in a relatively short period of time. Bucci would not provide details on the exact lessons learned, citing the need to keep them secret.

The Ticonderoga-class cruiser was the first ship to head out to sea under the Obama administration’s missile defence policy designed to protect Europe and enhance U.S security from potential ballistic missile threats emerging in the Middle East. The European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) was endorsed by NATO at a November 2010 summit in Lisbon. President Barack Obama announced the policy in 2009, scrapping Bush administration-era plans to base long-range interceptors in Eastern Europe.

A successful test of the Aegis BMD system in April using a SM-3 Block 1A missile and AN/SPY-1 radar was a critical milestone for EPAA (Defense Daily, April 18). The Aegis BMD system has been among the most advanced of the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) programs, succeeding in 21 of 25 flight tests with the SM-3 interceptor since 2002. The exercise demonstrated the necessary capabilities to support the sea-based phase of EPAA.

The next phase involves placing the SM-3 Block IB interceptor in Romania in 2015 in what has been called Aegis Ashore.

The third phase calls for deploying a more advanced SM-3 Block IIA interceptor in 2018. That would include a second land-based site. The United States and Poland reached an agreement in 2008 for the latter to host the next site. Warsaw ratified that agreement in April.

MDA has awarded a combined $127 million contract to Lockheed Martin, Boeing [BA] and Raytheon [RTN] to begin development of the next generation of SM-3 IIB interceptors that could be deployed as early as 2020.