Progress Continues Toward NATO Missile Defense System

STUTTGART, Ger­many, May 15, 2012 — The Unit­ed States will announce at next week’s NATO sum­mit in Chica­go that the new mis­sile defense sys­tem in Europe has reached inter­im oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ty, the alliance’s supreme allied com­man­der for Europe said.

Sailors man the rails as the guid­ed-mis­sile cruis­er USS Mon­terey departs Naval Sta­tion Nor­folk, Va., to pro­vide the first bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense under the Euro­pean Phased Adap­tive Approach, March 7, 2011. U.S. Navy pho­to by Pet­ty Offi­cer 1st Class Julie Matyas­cik
Click to enlarge

“We will announce the inter­im oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ty of that sys­tem, which will begin to pro­tect our Euro­pean part­ners from the threat of bal­lis­tic mis­siles,” Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis said dur­ing an inter­view with the Pen­ta­gon Chan­nel and Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice. Stavridis also com­mands U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand.

That sys­tem — the first phase of the Euro­pean Phased Adap­tive Approach Mis­sile Defense Sys­tem that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma pro­posed in 2009 — will inte­grate with the NATO com­mand-and-con­trol sys­tem to begin stand­ing up the NATO mis­sile defense sys­tem, he said.

The first phase, now com­plet­ed, relies on exist­ing mis­sile defense sys­tems to address short- and medi­um-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile threats. Upcom­ing phas­es will intro­duce increas­ing­ly capa­ble inter­cep­tors and mis­sile defense com­mand-and-con­trol sys­tem upgrades.

Phase 1 con­sists of Aegis ships with bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense capa­bil­i­ties and a com­mand-and-con­trol sys­tem in Ram­stein, Ger­many.

USS Mon­terey, fol­lowed short­ly by USS The Sul­li­vans, last year became the first ships to rotate to the Mediter­ranean Sea in sup­port of the ini­tia­tive. Stavridis told Con­gress in March he con­sid­ers these ships “the back­bone of mis­sile defense” with the added ben­e­fit of being able to sup­port anti-sub­ma­rine, anti-air and anti-sur­face oper­a­tions.

Also as part of Phase 1, Turkey agreed to host a land-based ear­ly warn­ing radar sys­tem in Kure­cik, in the south­east­ern Malatya province. That, in turn, will be com­bined with the NATO com­mand-and-con­trol sys­tem, Stavridis said.

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“Those three ele­ments come togeth­er to pro­vide us with an ini­tial capa­bil­i­ty to pro­vide some lev­el of defense of Europe against a threat ema­nat­ing from the Mid­dle East,” Navy Rear Adm. Mark Mont­gomery, Eucom’s deputy direc­tor for plans, pol­i­cy and strat­e­gy, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice. “That was our most sig­nif­i­cant bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense achieve­ment in 2011.”

Mean­while, “we are work­ing hard on the Phase 2, 3 and 4 ele­ments” of the plan, Stavridis told the Sen­ate and House armed ser­vices com­mit­tees in March. That includes nego­ti­at­ing agree­ments with part­ner coun­tries, par­tic­u­lar­ly Roma­nia and Poland, regard­ing sta­tion­ing of the Aegis bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense sys­tem that will extend the mis­sile shield dur­ing Phase 2 of the plan.

Mont­gomery also report­ed progress toward devel­op­ing an AEGIS Ashore land-based inter­cep­tor sys­tem in Deveselu, Roma­nia, to be com­plet­ed by 2015. This is a crit­i­cal ele­ment of the Phase 2 roll­out, which Roma­nia agreed late last year to host.

Mean­while, Eucom is work­ing close­ly with the Pol­ish defense min­istry to imple­ment the U.S.-Poland bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense agree­ment in sup­port of impor­tant Phase 3 capa­bil­i­ties, Stavridis report­ed.

“We’ll upgrade the mis­siles at that point, and we’ll upgrade the com­mand-and-con­trol” with more and increas­ing­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed over­head sen­sors, he told Con­gress. “And then the next step will be 2018, when we’ll add anoth­er set of ground inter­cep­tors in Poland.”

The final phase of the plan, slat­ed for com­ple­tion by 2020, will deploy more advanced inter­cep­tors designed to counter not only medi­um and inter­me­di­ate range mis­siles, but also poten­tial future inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile threats to the Unit­ed States from the Mid­dle East.

“It is a pro­gres­sion,” Stavridis said of the sys­tem. “It is adap­tive to the threat, in that we can plug in at any step along the way to con­tin­ue to improve it, to pace the threat that we see.”

In announc­ing the mis­sile defense plan three years ago, Oba­ma promised “stronger, smarter and swifter defens­es of Amer­i­can forces and America’s allies.”

“It is more com­pre­hen­sive than the pre­vi­ous pro­gram,” he said of the plan. “It deploys capa­bil­i­ties that are proven and cost effec­tive. And it sus­tains and builds upon our com­mit­ment to pro­tect the U.S. home­land against long-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile threats, and it ensures and enhances the pro­tec­tion of all our NATO allies.”

NATO endorsed the con­cept at its Novem­ber 2010 sum­mit in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, agree­ing to expand its mis­sile defense com­mand, con­trol and com­mu­ni­ca­tions capa­bil­i­ties to pro­tect Europe and encour­ag­ing allies to fol­low the U.S. lead in mak­ing vol­un­tary nation­al con­tri­bu­tions to the effort.

Based on agree­ments at the Lis­bon sum­mit, Eucom field­ed work­sta­tions through­out its head­quar­ters and ser­vice com­po­nent head­quar­ters that use a NATO-com­pat­i­ble net­work able to sup­port the NATO bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense mis­sion, offi­cials explained.

The com­mand plans to tie U.S. ships to that net­work, a step toward increas­ing­ly inte­grat­ed the­ater sen­sors, shoot­ers and plat­forms.

In addi­tion, the Air Force is estab­lish­ing a joint, com­bined Euro­pean Inte­grat­ed Air and Mis­sile Defense Cen­ter in Eisiedler­hof, Ger­many. Its mis­sion, Stavridis told Con­gress, will be to edu­cate, devel­op and refine U.S., part­ner and allied mis­sile defense capa­bil­i­ties and exper­tise.

With grow­ing sup­port with­in NATO to sup­port the mis­sion, Spain, the Unit­ed King­dom, Ger­many, the Nether­lands, Den­mark, Italy and France are explor­ing ways to com­ple­ment it, Stavridis told Con­gress. He not­ed that the Dutch are buy­ing ships capa­ble of plug­ging into the bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense archi­tec­ture, and that all NATO nations now con­tribute com­mand and con­trol capa­bil­i­ties.

Get­ting addi­tion­al com­mit­ments for the sys­tem is expect­ed to be an agen­da top­ic at next week’s NATO sum­mit. Stavridis told Con­gress in March he’ll con­tin­ue to press the Euro­peans to shoul­der a grow­ing role in mis­sile defense.

NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­mussen is expect­ed to join in that effort, with the goal of mak­ing the sys­tem as com­pre­hen­sive as pos­si­ble.

“Step by step, NATO’s ter­ri­to­r­i­al mis­sile defense is becom­ing a real­i­ty,” he report­ed in Octo­ber just before a NATO defense min­is­ters con­fer­ence in Brus­sels.

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