Proliferation of ballistic missiles has posed a danger to NATO’s security for years. Over 30 countries have or are in the process of acquiring ballistic missile technology. As a result, Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) is on top of the transatlantic agenda and the United States is implementing a missile defense shield in Europe to protect its allies.
To counter ballistic missiles, the U.S. develops, tests, and deploys all types of defensive technology, short-range, intermediate-range, and long-range. The BMD system is also “layered” to adapt and respond to a variety of missile ranges, speeds, sizes, and performance. The multi-layered approach allows several opportunities to destroy a ballistic warhead before it reaches its target. Space-based and sea-based sensors detect and track a missile and ground- and sea-based interceptor missiles destroy its warhead(s) via direct collision, called “hit-to-kill” technology.
The U.S. Navy has had to make some difficult decisions in response to the possibility of budget sequestration. The importance it assigns to missile defense is reflected in the fact that most warship deployments to Europe will be cancelled, but BMD cruises will not. Fortunately, the U.S. Navy also receives funding from the Missile Defense Agency which helps its scheduled goal to increase BMD-capable Aegis ships to 36 by the end of 2018.
NATO leaders are determined to protect and defend allied territories from missile attacks. As NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said, “Our system will link together missile defense assets from different allies — satellites, ships, radars and interceptors. It will allow us to defend against threats from the Euro-Atlantic area.” As the lead U.S. military service assigned to support defense of allies against ballistic missiles, the Navy is likely to have a crucial role in the eastern Mediterranean for decades to come — regardless of what other challenges materialize.
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