Washington: The United States is sending a
special radar-equipped warship to the Mediterranean Sea next
week, the first step in the development of a broad
anti-ballistic missile system to protect Europe against a
potential Iranian nuclear threat, the Pentagon said.
The move marks the first of the Obama administration`s
four-phase plan to put land- and sea-based radars and
interceptors in several European locations during the next
Endorsed by NATO during a summit in Lisbon last year,
the missile shield has triggered opposition from Russia and
set off lengthy negotiations over the future expanded ability
to shoot down ballistic missiles in the region.
John F. Plumb, principal director for Pentagon nuclear
and missile defense policy, said yesterday that the USS
Monterey will leave Norfolk, Virginia, next week, heading to a
six-month deployment in the Mediterranean. The ship`s mission,
he said, will lay groundwork for the unfolding missile defense
"Here is our first concrete demonstration of our
commitment to the missile defense of our deployed forces,
allies and partners in Europe," Plumb said in an interview.
"We said we were going to do it, and now we`re doing it."
Under the plan laid out by the Obama administration in
2009, the missile shield would begin with ship-based
anti-missile interceptors and radars. Later this year, the
United States plans to add land-based radars in southern
Europe. Plumb said officials are still in discussions with
several nations, but the exact location for those radars had
not yet been determined.
In phase two, land-based interceptors would be
deployed in Romania in 2015, followed by the placement of
interceptors in Poland in 2018. Each phase calls for a more
sophisticated and capable interceptor, culminating at the end
of the decade with the deployment of the last version planned
as of now.
The goal is to protect NATO nations against
medium-range missile attacks, with the focus being the growing
nuclear threat from Iran.
The USS Monterey is a guided missile cruiser equipped
with a sophisticated Aegis radar system. Other ballistic
missile defense capable ships have been deployed by the US
Navy to the Mediterranean since 2009, but this is the first to
go under the new European defense plan.