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Navy's European missile sites move forward

Apr. 19, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 use a heavy roller to finish the ground work in March at Deveselu Air Base, Romania, home of the first of two European Aegis Ashore locations.
Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 use a heavy roller to finish the ground work in March at Deveselu Air Base, Romania, home of the first of two European Aegis Ashore locations. (Navy)
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Ramping up in Europe

The military could speed up deployment of a land-based missile defense shield in Europe to hem in a resurgent Russia, the Navy 3-star in charge of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said in early April.

Vice Adm. James Syring said it was possible to speed up the deployment of the second Aegis Ashore installation, planned for Poland in 2018, but such a move would require some help from Congress.

“We’d need some additional funds in the [fiscal 2015] budget, and we’d need to move up the development of the [Standard Missile-3 Block ]IIA,” Syring said, referring to the faster, larger interceptor missile being developed for the Aegis Ashore system being built in Poland. The first site is being stood up in Romania and is slated to go live in 2015.

Raytheon is developing the SM3-IIA. It’s development is on track for a 2018 deployment, company spokeswoman Heather Uberuaga said, but she declined to speculate on whether speeding up development was possible.

Elaine Bunn, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, said the missile shields in the Mediterranean and the planned deployment to Romania and Poland were designed to counter threats from Iran, not Russia.

Russia is banned from owning or developing medium- and intermediate-range missiles by a Reagan-era treaty. But U.S. intelligence has indicated that Russia may be violating the treaty and testing a new ground-launched cruise missile, according to a January report in the New York Times.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the treaty obsolete in 2007, though it has never been formally scrapped. Russia has vehemently objected to the deployment of missile shields in central Europe, even threatening to use “destructive force” if the shields are put in place.

The plan to deploy sea- and shore-based missile shields in Europe is part of the Obama administration’s plan to protect Europe from ballistic-missile attack.

The first Aegis Ashore site will be up and running by 2015 in Romania, followed by another installation in Poland in 2018.

They will complement the missile defense work provided by BMD-capable ships. As part of this, the Navy has begun moving four destroyers to Rota, Spain, to serve as in-theater BMD patrol assets. The Donald Cook arrived in February and will be joined by destroyers Ross, Porter and Carney over the next two years.

The Navy is seeking sailors to man the Romania site, set to come online next year. The duty, especially the operational time, is sure to be demanding.

The Aegis Ashore sites will be run round-the-clock by three crews. Each shift has an 11-person watch team, including rates that typically work in a ship’s combat information center: fire control technicians, operations specialists and cryptologic technicians (technical). One watch officer will oversee them.

Officials plan to deploy three of these specially trained watch teams for six months at a time. This will be an operational tour, similar to a ship’s cruise, and won’t come with permanent change-of-station orders or the possibility of bringing dependents to Romania.

All of the watch teams will be assigned to a stateside command and will deploy from there. Their workups are four months of indoctrination and team trainers, culminating in a BMD certification. The first watch teams will go through the trainers starting in early 2015 and are set to deploy in the early summer, Navy officials said.

The battery’s commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief will stay in Romania and oversee the rotating teams on yearlong orders.■

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