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Aegis not enough? US to deploy THAAD missile defense systems to eastern Europe

Aegis not enough? US to deploy THAAD missile defense systems to eastern Europe
The US will send its THAAD systems to Romania this summer, where another massive missile defense site is undergoing modernization. This is the first time the systems have been deployed so close to Russian borders.

Fort Hood-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems will arrive in Romania in the coming months at NATO’s request, according to the US European Command (EUCOM). The “preplanned and temporary” deployment will add to the existing Aegis Ashore missile defense compound built in the Romanian neighborhood of Deveselu.

THAAD is said to have been mobilized to allow NATO to perform some “regular updates” at the controversial Aegis Ashore site. EUCOM has notably said that the modernization “will not add any offensive capabilities to the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System.”

READ MORE: US deploys THAAD missile defense systems to Israel for very first time (PHOTO, VIDEO)

Russia, which has long opposed building ballistic missile facilities in eastern Europe, maintains that the Aegis Ashore could be used to launch offensive missiles – contrary to Western claims that this is a defensive weapon.

The Aegis features a powerful scanning radar and dozens of vertical canisters carrying missiles. Moscow believes the Romanian site could easily be converted into a cruise missile base that can attack targets inside Russia. In the case of a small-scale conflict that does not involve hundreds of missiles fired by each side, it would be a significant factor.

Aside from Romania, the US is set to build another site in Poland. The initial installation in Romania has 24 missile-carrying canisters stored in three prefabricated, eight-canister modules.

THAAD, designed by Lockheed Martin, is a land-based missile defense system able to shoot down short-, medium-, and intermediate-range rockets during descent.

It has previously been deployed in Guam, the UAE, Israel, and South Korea. Romania will be the very first European country to host those systems.

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In some of those countries, people have been wary of hosting the missile defense systems. South Koreans, for instance, have frequently held large-scale protests demanding that their government opposes US plans.

Locals in Japan, which does not have any THAADs on its soil but accommodates a US missile defense command, have also vented their anger at the US military. Last year, local authorities in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo complained that it was “disappointing to suddenly find out” about building the command close to a busy train station.

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