Milestone Nears for European Missile Defense Plan

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2011 — The U.S. plan to defend Europe from a rapid­ly increas­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile threat will reach a mile­stone next week with the first deploy­ment of mis­sile defense tech­nol­o­gy, a senior Defense Depart­ment offi­cial said yes­ter­day.
“The bal­lis­tic mis­sile threat is real, and it’s now,” said John F. Plumb, the Pentagon’s prin­ci­pal direc­tor for nuclear and mis­sile defense pol­i­cy, adding that the phased, adap­tive approach to Euro­pean mis­sile defense is a capa­bil­i­ty designed to defend against that threat.

The USS Mon­terey — equipped with sys­tems to detect, track, engage and destroy bal­lis­tic mis­siles in flight — will deploy next week from its home port of Nor­folk, Va., for a six-month tour in the U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand area of respon­si­bil­i­ty, Plumb said.

The ship will par­tic­i­pate in mis­sile defense exer­cis­es and help to lay the foun­da­tion for future deploy­ments, Plumb said, in “the first demon­stra­tion of our com­mit­ment to this … in a long series of deploy­ments that will fol­low.”

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma approved the phased, adap­tive approach to Euro­pean bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense in 2009, and the NATO alliance agreed to the plan at its Novem­ber 2010 sum­mit in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal.

The approach will begin with exist­ing tech­nol­o­gy and add more sophis­ti­cat­ed sys­tems now in devel­op­ment to build sea- and land-based mis­sile defense sys­tems in Europe through­out the rest of this decade, Plumb said.

“The first phase … involves ships, because we have sea-based mis­sile defense capa­bil­i­ties now, as well as for­ward-based radar that can pro­vide infor­ma­tion to those ships,” he said.

The sec­ond phase will begin in 2015, he said, with the deploy­ment of a land-based inter­cep­tor site in Roma­nia. The inter­cep­tor, the Stan­dard Missile‑3 IB, or SM‑3 IB, is in devel­op­ment now, Plumb said.

“That will be the first land-based deploy­ment of this type of inter­cep­tor, and that will start to pro­vide greater cov­er­age for Europe,” he said.

The SM‑3 IA already is deployed on ships around the world, he said, and two oth­er vari­ants of the inter­cep­tor, the IIA and IIB, are sched­uled to be in place as part of phas­es 3 and 4 by 2020. Plumb said each ver­sion of the inter­cep­tor will defend against mis­siles of greater ranges and speeds.

The bal­lis­tic mis­sile threat to Europe from the Mid­dle East, par­tic­u­lar­ly Iran, is a dri­ving force behind the phased, adap­tive approach, he said.

“[Iran] con­tin­ues to pur­sue more and greater capa­bil­i­ties,” he said. “We need to have a way not only to deter them from using them, but also if deter­rence fails to be able to inter­cept their mis­siles.”

While the phased, adap­tive approach is cur­rent­ly under U.S. Euro­pean Command’s author­i­ty, Plumb said, NATO agreed at the Lis­bon sum­mit to estab­lish com­mand-and-con­trol sys­tems allow­ing the alliance to take the lead in bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense on the Euro­pean con­ti­nent.

“Europe is a big place,” he said. “The more you can coop­er­ate, and the more assets oth­er nations can con­tribute, the bet­ter the sys­tem can func­tion.”

Those con­tri­bu­tions may take the form of sen­sors, inter­cep­tors or land for sites, he said.

“The assets we’re deploy­ing … would be the U.S. nation­al con­tri­bu­tion to the mis­sile defense of Europe,” Plumb said. “As with any oth­er NATO mis­sion, indi­vid­ual nations vol­un­tar­i­ly con­tribute assets, and [all] would work under a NATO com­mand struc­ture.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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