The first Aegis Ashore installation in Romania is nearing the Dec. 31 light off. The presidential mandate requires the system to be online by the end of 2015. After the light off, MDA will make a technical capability declaration (TCD) similar to an initial operational capability (IOC) declaration. After the final Board of Inspection and Survey inspection the site will be activated.
According to the US Naval Institute report, the entire Aegis program is taking a step forward with the finalization of all Aegis Baseline 9 fielding activities.
Baseline 9 – with its Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability that allows ballistic missile defense and anti-air warfare simultaneously, and its connection to the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture – was certified earlier this year.
The Deveselu Aegis-Ashore site in Romania will be declared operational (able to down a missile) in 2016, after the successful completion of training exercises. When fully active, the Deveselu facility will be operated by more than 200 U.S. sailors and civilians plus Romanian military personnel.
Within NATO, the discussions on making maritime ballistic missile defense (BMD) training a routine event in Europe are on the way.
The naval exercise included the first launch of a Standard Missile-3 in Europe, and securing the region for the ballistic missile target launch. USS Ross (DDG-71) tracked and intercepted the ballistic missile, while USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) tracked and intercepted a cruise missile. Other NATO ships tracked the missiles and sent their data to a U.S.-based lab for analysis on the accuracy and timeliness of the tracking capability.
Totally, the U.S. Navy now has four Aegis missile defense capable guided missile destroyers homeported in Naval Station Rota, Spain, the Aegis Ashore site in Romania set to come online on Dec. 31 and the second in Poland expected to be completed in 2018. This force is added by Patriot missile defense capabilities, THAAD missile defense capabilities that are primarily in the Army and Air Force realm.
The US has recently restarted a missile defense program that's especially well-suited to countering an emerging Iranian capability.
The program was suspended in 2009 to be revived by the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.
In August, nearly a month after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran was reached, the US Defense Department awarded a contract to Boeing to "define a concept" for a multiple-kill vehicle or multiple-object kill vehicle (MKV).
The MKV will be able to engage multiple targets at once, useful if an enemy missile deploys missiles that can release multiple warheads as well as decoys.
According to Space News, the MKV fills a gap in US missile defense capabilities able to destroy both the decoy and the actual warhead.
The outlet reports that the Pentagon aims for the MKV to go online by 2020.
Not everyone is thrilled at the revival of interest in missile defense. Yousaf Butt, a professor at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, offered an interesting view on the matter in 2010 after the program was suspended.
He wrote, «The purpose of missile defense is to defend, or, more accurately, attempt to defend. An adversary wouldn't be deterred from launching a nuclear attack because of the existence of missile defense; rather, it's the credible threat of overwhelming nuclear retaliation that deters an adversary. If the enemy is irrational and suicidal enough to discount the threat of massive nuclear retaliation».
This April, Chief of Russian General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov said Moscow would target NATO’s new missile interceptor bases in Romania and Poland. «Non-nuclear powers where missile-defense installations are being installed have become the objects of priority response», Gerasimov said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Col. Gen. Sergei Karakayev, the Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces' commander, said Wednesday, Dec.16, 2015, in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that the nation's military planners have taken into account the emerging potential of NATO's U.S.-led missile defenses.
Karakayev said that while the existing U.S. missile defense isn't capable of deflecting a missile attack Russia is capable of launching, the US missile shield will become more advanced in the future. He added that Russia already has taken steps that would "guarantee neutralizing" any prospective missile defense.
* * *
The recent Iranian ballistic missiles tests are used as a pretext for all the activities conducted the United States individually or within the framework of NATO. The UK, France, Germany and the United States had asked a UN Security Council sanctions committee to investigate the launch of the Iranian Emad missile on October 10, three months after the historic nuclear deal was reached. «On the basis of its analysis and findings, the panel concludes that Emad launch is a violation by Iran of paragraph 9 of Security Council resolution 1929», said the report presented to the Council last week and obtained by AFP on Tuesday, Dec. 15.
Resolution 1929 prohibits Tehran from conducting launches of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
«The panel assesses that the launch of the Emad has a range of no less than 1,000 kilometers with a payload of at least 1,000 kilograms and that Emad was a launch ‘using ballistic missile technology'«, the report said. The experts said a rocket must be capable of delivering at least a 500 kilogram payload to a range of at least 300 kilometers to be deemed capable of firing a nuclear weapon. The United States is also looking at reports of a new ballistic missile test on November 24.
The International Atomic Energy Agency on Dec.15 closed its long-running probe of Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons, removing an important obstacle to implementing the deal, as the Security Council was preparing to lift sanctions on Iran, possibly in January. Iran had denied that the missile launch was in violation of the resolution, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif saying that it was not designed to carry nuclear warheads. Iran will not accept any limitations on its missile program, Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan said on Dec.16, after UN experts accused Tehran of violating a Security Council resolution.
At the international level, the decision to keep the sanctions in force needs the approval of Russia, China and other members of six world powers group. One more burning issue appears to be added to the Russia-US bilateral agenda to make all the talks about «Russia’s isolation» become irrelevant. The interaction is indispensable under the circumstances.
* * *
The trend to rev up the efforts aimed at boosting the US-led global missile defense capability is obvious and alarming. Russia and some other states, in particular China, express their concern over the plans ready to respond with steps to counter the US missile defense capability.
It may spark a dangerous arms race at the time of heightened tensions over other problems. The time has come for Russia and the US to go beyond the Middle East and address the whole range of controversial issues dividing the both states.