US & allies to test missile defense system in Europe for first time - media

© Mike Blake
The US Navy alongside forces from eight other nations, will hold missile defense drills in Europe later in October, according to military sources, as cited by the American media.

The exercises will be held under the Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum, which is a coalition aimed at coordinating missile defense efforts, Stars and Stripes reports. The forum was created in 1999 and includes Canada, Australia, Spain, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Italy alongside with the US.

The goal of the exercises is to test the allies’ capability to counter multiple missile threats and coordinate their actions in defending against several missiles at once, which is known as an integrated air and missile defense concept, reports citing the US 6th Fleet.

The drills will reportedly include simultaneous interception of an unarmed ballistic missile launched from a British range located in the Outer Hebrides near Scotland and an anti-ship missile fired from a closer range. In order to accomplish this task, the vessels will use highly automated command-and-control systems such as Aegis with the US ship also using their guided anti-ballistic SM-3 missiles.

Aegis is an advanced integrated command and weapon control system used to find and track targets as well as to guide weapons to destroy them. It is installed on more than 30 US Navy warships and is also used by several other countries, including Spain and Norway.

The military sources have revealed neither the exact date nor the location of the missile defense drills in Europe.

The exercises mark a new milestone in the development of the ballistic missile defense system in Europe, which has been created by the US and NATO for about a decade already.

On September 25, the US navy completed the deployment of its Aegis-equipped naval group with its fourth and final destroyer ‘Carney’ being stationed in the Spanish port of Rota. It was part of the US-developed missile defense system in Europe known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach.

Alongside the ship-based missile defenses, this system also includes ground-based interception sites that are to be built in Romania and Poland. On September 25, Polish lawmakers approved a technical agreement with the US concerning an anti-missile base in Redzikowo. According to the plan, the facility will be operational by 2018.

The US and NATO continue to point at a potential missile threat from Iran as the reason for the development of the missile defense system in Europe. Iran only has short and medium-range missile systems with its most advanced ballistic weapons having a maximum range of about 2,500 kilometers.

The agreement with Tehran reached on July 14, which curbed its nuclear program, has not changed US plans to create an anti-missile defense system in Europe.

Moscow has repeatedly stated that the US anti-missile systems poses a threat to Russia’s national security. The US has consistently refuted such claims.

In August, a month after the deal with Iran had been reached, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that the US missile defense system was in the final stages of its development and it would have a “certain devaluating effect concerning Russian strategic forces.”

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“We don’t see any reasons [the missile defense system] should continue, especially at such a rapid pace and with a clear ‘projection’ on Russian territory,” Ryabkov said at that time, adding that "the US administration is making up artificial excuses to justify their decision – made under the influence of other motives – to continue the creation of a missile defense system in Europe.”