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Next Phases of European Missile Shield 'on Track': DOD
WASHINGTON -- The next steps in the Obama administration’s plan for European missile defense are developing according to schedule and should not be impacted by Pentagon budget cuts, senior U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
The European Phased Adaptive Approach involves the gradual deployment of increasingly advanced missile defense systems in and around Europe over the next decade. It is the U.S. contribution to a broader NATO endeavor to create an alliance-wide active layered theater ballistic missile defense shield for protection against airborne threats emanating from the Middle East.
The first part of the EPAA initiative was declared operational in 2012. It involves a continuous rotation of Aegis destroyers in the Mediterranean; an advanced X-band radar system in Kurecik, Turkey; and a command-and-control center in Ramstein, Germany.
“We are fully committed to the EPAA,” Defense Undersecretary for Policy James Miller said, adding that the plans for the deployment of antimissile systems under the second and third phases are proceeding apace. “Those are on track and on schedule and are high priority items for this administration.”
Under Phase 2 -- envisioned for completion in 2015 -- the U.S. Navy would have four U.S. Aegis-equipped missile destroyers home-ported in Rota, Spain. The destroyers would have Standard Missile 3 Block 1B interceptors capable of destroying short- and medium-range missiles. The United States has also struck a deal with Romania to host a radar system and 24 SM-3 Block 1B interceptors.
In the third phase -- planned for implementation in 2018 -- SM-3 Block 1B and 2A interceptors would be fielded in Redzikowo, Poland.
The 2A system, still being developed with Japan, is designed to shoot down short-, medium, - and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The next-generation interceptor is “on track and we are committed to that,” Miller told attendees of a Washington conference on missile defense.
All of the Block 1B and Block 2A interceptors fielded at European bases would use the Aegis Ashore system, which is a modified version of the technology provided to Aegis ballistic missile defense destroyers.
“I think we are in a really good place on Phase 3,” Deputy Assistant of State for Space and Defense Policy Frank Rose said at the forum. Technical work on the 2A interceptor is proceeding “very nicely,” he said, adding that “we are making a great deal of progress with the development of the Aegis Ashore system.”
While there has been confidence regarding funding for the second EPAA segment, there had been concerns that Pentagon budget cutbacks would impact the third, less-developed phase. The federal budget sequester, which went into effect on March 1, requires $46 billion in DOD spending reductions between now and the end of September.
“It seems that all of the funding has been provided by Congress for Phase 3,” said Rose, who led the State Department’s negotiations for the EPAA hosting agreements with European partners.
If implemented as planned, the first three phases of the Obama plan “will provide as good a defense of all of Europe as is possible with foreseeable technology,” said Walter Slocombe, a former Defense undersecretary for policy.
The final segment of the EPAA plan, involving deployment in Poland around 2022 of next-generation SM-3 Block 2B interceptors capable of defeating first-generation ICBMs, has a more uncertain future, Miller acknowledged on Monday.
The Pentagon official emphasized that Washington’s commitment to defend NATO partners in Europe was an “unshakeable constant of U.S. policy.”
While the United States is providing the upper tier elements of NATO’s layered ballistic missile shield, Miller said the U.S. government is encouraging European allies to move forward with developing and acquiring capacities such as the Patriot Advanced Capability 3 interceptor to destroy lower-altitude missile threats.
The United States recognizes that this is “an extraordinarily difficult time fiscally in terms of the defense budgets” in Washington and European capitals, he said.
European allies plan to contribute more than $1 billion in combined funding to developing the NATO shield, Rose noted.
The Netherlands has indicated it will spend approximately $324 million to modify radars on frigates to detect and track long-range ballistic missiles, the State official said. Additionally, Germany is studying options for developing an airborne infrared sensor and France has promoted a plan for a shared early warning satellite.
“These commitments are critical contributions to NATO’s developing missile defense system,” Rose said.
NATO has a shortfall “when it comes to tactical missile defense capabilities,” he said. European nations considering antimissile system purchases should consider how they can address this gap as well as making certain that the acquired system is “fully integratable” with the evolving missile defense architecture, according to Rose.
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