U.S. Navy Knocks Down Ballistic Missile Over Europe
NATO warships test missile defenses
For the first time ever, the Pentagon has demonstrated its ability to shoot down a ballistic missile in Europe. The test was part of larger event put on by the Martime Theater Missile Defense Forum, or MTMD Forum. On Oct. 20, the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Ross launched an SM-3 interceptor and blew up a two-stage Terrier-Orion target missile. At the same time, USS The Sullivans — another Arleigh Burke vessel — lobbed a less advanced SM-2 surface-to-air missile at mock cruise missiles hurtling toward the ships. The whole event took place in the United Kingdom’s missile range off the Scottish Hebrides islands. The range has more than 18,000 square miles of “sanitized airspace,” according to QinetiQ, the defense contractor that runs the facilities. Navy Adm. Mark Ferguson, the top American naval officer in Europe and chief of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command in Italy, congratulated the participants after the demonstration:
I am particularly proud of the performance of the USS Ross (DDG 71), based in Rota, Spain. Ross conducted, in a flawless fashion, the exo-atmospheric ballistic missile intercept in the European theater, based on data provided by an allied ship. This exercise demonstrates the commitment of the United States to the defense of Europe through our Aegis ships and our shore station in Romania, as well as the professional performance of our allied Sailors. This achievement also highlights the enduring value of our MTMD Forum member nations – Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom – and demonstrates the interoperability of allied navies to conduct integrated air and missile defense.
Though focused on training with ships that intercept long-range ballistic missiles, the organization also looks to defend against cruise missiles and other anti-ship weapons. The members designed the 2015 At Sea Demonstration — a.k.a. ASD-15 — to incorporate various scenarios. ASD-15 involves three weeks of various live-fire training exercises in total.
On top of the MTMD Forum’s own goals, the gathering allowed the U.S. Navy to test out its own missile defense plans in Europe. Ross is one of four Arleigh Burke destroyers based in Spain working as part of the Pentagon’s global missile defense program and NATO’s anti-missile shield. In addition to the destroyers, NATO member Romania hosts an Aegis Ashore site. Looking like a buried ship, the land-based system uses the same Aegis radar, fire control gear and missile launchers as Ross and her sister ships. The Pentagon hopes to set up a second facility in Poland by the end of 2018. Moscow has criticized Washington and NATO over the plans — claiming that the defenses are destabilizing and directed against Russia. American and European officials insist that the defenses are meant to protect against smaller nations such as Iran, and that the Kremlin’s criticism is intended for domestic audiences. In an actual war, according to NATO, Russia could easily counter and overwhelm these defenses.