U.S. Begins Fielding Missile Interceptor Planned for Basing in Europe

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
April 24, 2014, 9:34 a.m.

The United States has be­gun field­ing a new mis­sile in­ter­cept­or that is planned in the short term to be de­ployed in Ro­mania and the Medi­ter­ranean.

The U.S. Navy is now de­ploy­ing the Stand­ard Mis­sile 3 Block 1B in­ter­cept­or, which is de­signed to des­troy short- and me­di­um-range bal­list­ic mis­siles, pro­du­cer Ray­theon Co. an­nounced in a Wed­nes­day press re­lease.

“The SM-3 Block 1B’s com­ple­tion of ini­tial op­er­a­tion­al test­ing last year set the stage for a rap­id de­ploy­ment to theat­er,” Ray­theon Mis­sile Sys­tems Pres­id­ent Taylor Lawrence said in provided com­ments. “The SM-3’s highly suc­cess­ful test per­form­ance gives com­batant com­mand­ers around the world the con­fid­ence they need to counter the grow­ing bal­list­ic mis­sile threat.”

But the fu­ture of the second-gen­er­a­tion in­ter­cept­or in­cludes some un­cer­tainty. The Pentagon’s Mis­sile De­fense Agency re­cently re­vealed to In­side De­fense that it had de­cided to post­pone for one year plans to seek con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al for a mul­ti­year pro­duc­tion deal with Ray­theon. The de­cision came after the agency de­term­ined it can­not yet show a re­li­able fund­ing stream for the Block 1B mis­sile, a sus­tained mil­it­ary need or a stable design.

A re­cent re­port by Con­gress’ in­tern­al aud­it­or re­com­men­ded delay­ing full pro­duc­tion un­til it is de­term­ined wheth­er changes to the mis­sile in­ter­cept­or’s design are war­ran­ted, fol­low­ing an in­ter­cept at­tempt last year in which a launched Block 1B failed to per­form.

The Block 1B mis­sile is slated for de­ploy­ment on four Ae­gis-equipped U.S. mis­sile des­troy­ers home-por­ted in Rota, Spain, and be­gin­ning in 2015 at a site cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion in Ro­mania.

The planned field­ings form the second phase of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “phased ad­apt­ive ap­proach” for European mis­sile de­fense.

The fi­nal phase of the plan will in­volve field­ing an even more-ad­vanced SM-3 in­ter­cept­or in Po­land in the 2018-2020 time­frame.

The an­ti­mis­sile sys­tems will be in­cor­por­ated in­to an evolving NATO bal­list­ic-mis­sile shield that has been por­trayed as de­fend­ing against a pos­sible mis­sile at­tack from the Middle East. More re­cently, though, some East­ern European al­li­ance mem­bers have sug­ges­ted the sys­tem could be­come a means of de­ter­ring a newly mil­it­ar­ily re­sur­gent Rus­sia.

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