U.S. Sending Warship to Spain to Support NATO Missile Shield

Global Security Newswire Staff
Jan. 31, 2014, 7:44 a.m.

A U.S. war­ship is ready­ing to de­part for Spain on Fri­day in ac­cord­ance with NATO plans to strengthen bal­list­ic-mis­sile de­fenses in Europe.

The USS Don­ald Cook will travel to its new home port of Rota, Spain, as part of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “phased ad­apt­ive ap­proach” for European mis­sile de­fense. Three oth­er Ar­leigh Burke-class guided-mis­sile des­troy­ers are to be de­ployed to Rota with­in the next two years, the Pentagon said in a press re­lease.

“The U.S. has a his­tor­ic­ally strong part­ner­ship with Spain, and the strength of that re­la­tion­ship is ex­em­pli­fied today as the first of four U.S. Navy des­troy­ers de­parts for Rota, Spain,” Navy Sec­ret­ary Ray Mabus said in provided com­ments.  “Per­man­ently for­ward-de­ploy­ing four ships in Rota will en­able us to be in the right place, not just at the right time, but all the time.”

The oth­er three des­troy­ers tasked for field­ing in Spain are the USS Ross, USS Port­er and USS Car­ney. All of the ships are to be equipped with Ae­gis sys­tems and Stand­ard Mis­sile 3 Block 1B in­ter­cept­ors de­signed to de­feat short- and me­di­um-range bal­list­ic mis­sile threats.

The United States is in the second of three planned phases for de­ploy­ing an­ti­mis­sile as­sets in Europe. The ini­tial stage, com­pleted in 2012, in­volved the field­ing of an AN/TPY-2 radar in Tur­key and the stand­ing up of a com­mand-and-con­trol cen­ter in Ger­many. The U.S. mil­it­ary next plans to de­ploy more-cap­able Stand­ard Mis­sile 3 in­ter­cept­ors in Ro­mania in 2015 and in Po­land in 2018.

The stated pur­pose of the NATO mis­sile shield is to guard against po­ten­tial at­tacks launched from the Middle East, though Rus­sia is con­cerned there may be an ul­teri­or motive that could ef­fect­ively weak­en its nuc­le­ar-de­terrent force.

In a Thursday vis­it to Po­land, U.S. De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel met with the coun­try’s top for­eign policy and de­fense lead­ers and prom­ised to de­ploy SM-3 in­ter­cept­ors at a base near the Balt­ic Sea coast in Redziko­wo.

“The United States is firmly com­mit­ted to de­ploy­ing a U.S. mis­sile de­fense sys­tem to Po­land,” Hagel was quoted in a Pentagon press story as say­ing in Warsaw. “We look for­ward to this sys­tem com­ing on­line in 2018 as part of phase three of the European Phased Ad­apt­ive Ap­proach.”

Wash­ing­ton twice be­fore dis­ap­poin­ted Warsaw by go­ing back on agree­ments to field in­ter­cept­ors in Po­land. The first time was in 2009 when the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion threw out a Bush-era plan to field 10 Ground Based In­ter­cept­ors in the coun­try. The second in­stance was in 2013 when the Pentagon can­celed plans to de­vel­op and field in Redziko­wo the Stand­ard Mis­sile 3 Block 2B, which was en­vi­sioned as hav­ing a lim­ited cap­ab­il­ity to de­feat stra­tegic mis­siles.

Partly in re­sponse to those U.S. de­cisions, Po­land is pur­su­ing its own air de­fense sys­tem, which will be linked to the broad­er NATO shield but will have a fo­cus on pro­tect­ing against pos­sible lower-alti­tude mis­sile at­tacks. Rus­sia has re­peatedly threatened to field tac­tic­al Iskander bal­list­ic mis­siles in its Ka­lin­in­grad ex­clave, which bor­ders Pol­ish ter­rit­ory, if its con­cerns about the NATO mis­sile shield are not ad­dressed.

Warsaw has out­lined plans to spend as much as $8.4 bil­lion to build its mis­sile de­fense sys­tem and U.S. firms are eager to win some of those con­tracts.

“As Po­land ex­plores op­tions for its own mis­sile-de­fense cap­ab­il­it­ies, there is an un­mis­tak­able op­por­tun­ity for us both to forge even closer co­oper­a­tion in this area, lever­aging cut­ting-edge tech­no­logy and en­hanced NATO cap­ab­il­ity,” Hagel said.

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