Missile defense plan for Europe puts the onus
on U.S. Navy’s Aegis cruisers and destroyers
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
initial phases, the Defense Department will look to the Navy’s
current Aegis BMD assets to fill
that role — all while the ships handle their typical missions.
“Part of the analysis that led to the
decision to adopt a phased adaptive
approach to regional missile defense
is that demand for missile defenses
will exceed supply,” the MDA stated
in a Nov. 4 e-mail response to questions from Seapower. “Aegis ships
help to mitigate this problem because
they can be moved to other regions if
necessary to bolster our defenses in
times of heightened tensions or crisis. Additionally, the number of
The U.S. government is implementing the plan to fulfill security commitments to allies and partners, and there
is the hope that missile defenses both reduce a potentially
hostile regional actor from threatening or coercing other
nations or from pursuing nuclear weapons altogether, the
MDA statement said.
The Aegis BMD system has proven to be largely successful thus far, with only a couple of failures in more
than 20 flight tests. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense
Force also has been testing the system in partnership
with the U.S. Navy and MDA, and completed its third
successful intercept in four tries during a test flight in
the Pacific Oct. 29.
In February 2008, the guided-missile cruiser USS
Lake Erie used the system to shoot down a nonfunctioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite over
the Pacific Ocean that was about to re-enter Earth’s
But the Navy and MDA, who both carry responsibilities when it comes to Aegis BMD, face a significant
U.S. Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense-equipped cruisers and
destroyers will shoulder the burden of the early phases of a new
missile defense plan for Europe.
■ The four-part phased adaptive approach is projected to conclude around 2020 with a permanent land-based system that
could protect all of Europe from missile defense threats.
■ The U.S. Navy currently has about 20 ships equipped to shoot
down ballistic missiles, and is expected to have more than 30 by
■ The Navy and Missile Defense Agency now face the significant challenge of providing missile defense for Europe while protecting against threats at home with limited available assets.
The weight of defending the European continent from ballistic missile attack soon will fall on the U.S. Navy’s fleet of Aegis Ballistic Missile
Defense (BMD) cruisers and destroyers — all while the
largely successful system goes through a series of upgrades in the coming years.
While the Navy plans to have nearly 60 Arleigh
Burke-class DDG 51 destroyers and Ticonderoga-class
cruisers funded for Lockheed Martin’s Aegis BMD
upgrades by fiscal 2024 — according to a report Navy
Secretary Ray Mabus sent Congress in April — it currently has about 20 ships equipped to shoot down ballistic missiles. The Navy and Missile Defense Agency
(MDA) will need every one of them to implement
President Barack Obama’s new missile defense plan for
Europe, known as the phased adaptive approach, which
the White House announced in September 2009.
The plan is divided into four phases that begin next
year and end around 2020 with a permanent land-based system that could protect all of Europe from
missile defense threats, notably from Iran. During the