The U.S. Army has announced the formal constitution of its first-ever antimissile and air defense command in Europe, Stars and Stripes reported on Thursday (see GSN, Oct. 3, 2011).
The 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command "gives us the additional capability and capacity to oversee and assist with execution and coordination of ballistic missile defense from the European theater,” said U.S. Army Europe deputy commander Maj. Gen. James Boozer.
The new Germany-based command was reconstituted last October from the 357th Air and Missile Defense Detachment. Troops formally stood up the reconfigured unit on Thursday in a special flag ceremony.
The command is anticipated to see its numbers increased from 125 to roughly 150 troops no later than next month, according to officials. The additional personnel will be involved in devising and carrying out implementation of the Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" for European missile defense.
Washington intends through 2020 to gradually deploy increasingly sophisticated land- and sea-based missile interceptors and associated assets around Europe as a stated hedge against feared ballistic missile strikes from the Middle East. Deals have already been struck with NATO members Poland, Spain and Romania to host U.S. interceptors and Turkey has agreed to allow a long-range radar unit on its soil. The U.S. effort is to form the core of a broader NATO initiative to integrate and enhance individual member nations' antimissile programs.
"Ballistic missile defense, no matter where they (missiles) come from, is critical to both European allies and the United States, and this is the unit that does it for us," said U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling.
"It's absolutely essential that as the [missile] threats continue to expand, the EUCOM (area of operation) have this capability," 10th AAMDC commander Col. Stephen Richmond told the military newspaper.
The new antimissile unit manages the U.S. Army in Europe's solitary Patriot unit, which is located at the Rhine Ordnance Barracks. The command also supports the operation of antimissile sensors and radars, Boozer said.
"Right now, soldiers are up to their necks in snow, building a shield for Europe on a remote mountain top," Boozer said without providing more specifics on where the construction work is taking place.
"We've got a radar site that we've had in Israel and there's another radar site going on now, but I can't get into the details," the general said in what was presumably a reference to plans to construct a radar base in Turkey's Kurecik province.
Turkey on Thursday sought to assuage Iran's concerns regarding the radar site, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
NATO and U.S. missile defense efforts in Europe are primarily seen as aimed against Iran, though Ankara has been loathe to publicly admit that is the case. Turkey shares a border with Iran and has better relations with Tehran than the rest of the alliance.
"This is for defensive purposes only. We guarantee that this is not a threat to Iran," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a joint media appearance in Istanbul with his Iranian opposite, Ali Akbar Salehi.
Some members of Iran's parliament and military have warned their nation would attack the radar base if a foreign strike appeared imminent, though the Iranian government has claimed such statements do not represent official policy (see GSN, Dec. 15, 2011).
"We underlined it very clearly that the missile defense system cannot be directed at any of Turkey's neighbors," Davutoglu said. "NATO documents confirm this. ...There is no reference to Iran in an y NATO document as a source of threats."
The minister promised that "we would never accept any attack on any of our neighbors from our soil. We don't want such a perception of threat to exist, especially against Iran" (Xinhua News Agency, Jan. 5).