US Expands Missile Defense Plans in Romania

by | Nov 9, 2013

NATO Russia

On October 28 Romanian President Traian Basesku, Romania’s Minister of Defense Mircea Dusa, US Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller, James Syring, director of the US Missile Defence Agency, and NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow attended the groundbreaking ceremony held on the territory of Deveselu military facility, a former air base located at 180 kilometers east of Bucharest, the Romania’s capital.

The move confirms that Romania has become one of Washington’s main security partners in Europe. “This is an historic occasion”, Mr. Vershbow noted.

A disused airfield is to be revamped and converted into a missile defence base which will remain under Romanian command to host an average of 200 US troops (up to a maximum of 500). The facility will be manned by U.S. Navy and civilian personnel with the Romanian military providing security.

The event marks the beginning of the construction to house 24 SAM-3 Block IB interceptor missiles and radar equipment to become operational in 2015 as part of controversial US ballistic missile defence (BMD) system formally designed to counter the threats from the Middle East. The missile achieved its fifth consecutive successful intercept this September launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie to destroy a target medium-range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii.

“Construction of the base in Deveselu, as noted by US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, has begun despite a lack of mutual understanding on the issue with Russia”, Minister Mircea Dusa emphasized.

Besides the missile defense component, the US-Romanian package agreement includes cooperation in modernizing the Romanian armed forces with training on carrying out foreign missions. Among other things it envisages close collaboration in the fields of intelligence, the special forces operations and logistics. American troops had already used Romanian bases for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 1999, and since 2005 four small Romanian bases have been leased by the US military.

In accordance with an agreement signed in mid-October, the Romanian port of Constanța and the Mihail Kog lniceanu airbase will become the main points for transferring troops and equipment to Afghanistan, and as such will replace the Manas logistic center in Kyrgyzstan which the US had previously used. The move is a step on the way of implementing the US strategy of building outposts in the countries of south-eastern Europe.

European Phased Adaptive Approach

After rethinking a global overwhelming system capable of eliminating all categories of ballistic missiles, the Obama administration put forward a new plan of its own. The fourth phase of the system was suspended at least until 2020, until the technology is available to match the plans (not ultimately cancelled as often erroneously reported by media).

The decision was taken in favor of deploying additional interceptors in Alaska. The first three phases remained by and large the same with some limited-scope reshaping introduced. Until the Obama’s decision to make it hung in the air, this indefinitely postponed stage of the previous plan envisioned an expansion of the Poland capabilities by 2021 to protect the U.S. homeland against potential ICBM threats from the Middle East. Meanwhile negotiations are in progress on constructing a future NATO missile defence system based on elements of the US shield in Europe, as it was approved at the NATO Chicago summit in 2012.

The US administration announced the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) in 2009. Phase one is underway – an early warning radar station in Malatya, Turkey, went operational in January 2012. Besides that, it includes the deployment of a US Aegis-equipped warship in the eastern Mediterranean to track and eliminate ballistic missiles in flight if need be. 

Phase two includes a U.S. land-based Aegis-Ashore interceptor located in Romania to be operational in 2015 against medium-range ballistic missiles launched from the Middle East as it is stated formally. The system will cover two-thirds of the European continent with U.S. forces stationed there. Apart from Romania, other elements of the system will be built in Portugal, Poland, and Spain. As part of phase two, four BMD-capable Aegis warships will be stationed in Spain. 

Phase three is the deployment of a similar Aegis-Ashore interceptor in Poland by 2018. Then the missile defense shield will protect the entire Europe. 

Poland’s BMD Contribution

As a part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), the European Interceptor Site (EIS) in Poland will consist of 24 SM-3Block IIA middle range missile interceptors to be deployed in 2018 in the Polish town of Redzikowo, near the Baltic coast. In addition, this March Warsaw declared its intention to create a national missile defence system to defend the country from short-range and mid-range missiles. 

According to Polish Gazeta Wyborcza paper, the preliminary concept of the project has already been developed. Under the plan, Poland should be ready to repulse a missile attack against a group of its forces, cities or important facilities by 2023. Providing a shield for the whole territory of the country is not possible yet. The system will be mobile to be quickly transferred and concentrated on the chosen territories and it will be integrated into NATO system. The alliance will be able to use it in case of a serious crisis. This is an important contribution to NATO capabilities at the times of economic and financial woes. 

According to Defense News, like other US defense companies looking for international opportunities amid Pentagon spending cuts, Lockheed Martin executives say they’re aggressively pursuing missile defense business in the Middle East and Europe, and hope to make a controversial program the centerpiece of this effort. The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), a partnership between the United States, Italy and Germany, is gearing up for its final test in November, after which the US Army — after spending $2 billion on the program — will back out, leaving its two European partners to decide what to do next.

Still, Mike Trotsky, vice president of Air & Missile Defense at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, which has helped develop the program, told reporters on September 10 that the company is looking at a Polish missile defense program as a possible landing pad for MEADS. “The Poles have the most mature acquisition that’s going on right now”, he said. “But we see a market for anybody who has aging short to medium-range air missile defense systems”. MEADS had a successful intercept test there last November using the Italian configuration launcher, and MEADS authorities are planning to use the two European launchers in this year’s two-target flight test, as Defense News reports.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.