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Navy Creates New Ballistic Missile and Air Defense Task Force for Europe

USS Ross (DDG 71) stands by during a nighttime passenger transfer during exercise Sea Breeze 2014 on Sept. 9, 2014. US Navy Photo

USS Ross (DDG 71) stands by during a nighttime passenger transfer during exercise Sea Breeze 2014 on Sept. 9, 2014. US Navy Photo

The Navy has created a new task force to address ballistic missile defense and integrated air and missile defense in the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) area of responsibility.

Commander, Task Force Sixty Four (CTF 64) out of Naples, Italy, will address the growth in these mission areas by providing a “captain level commander for maritime units focused on BMD and Aegis Ashore and a Navy component planning staff to support the Area Air Defense Commander,” according to a July 23 memo.

The task force will stand up on October 1 and report to U.S. 6th Fleet. Its mission is “to execute operational and tactical integrated air and missile defense including mission planning, execution, operational and tactical control of assigned units for Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe/U.S. Naval Forces Africa, U.S. Sixth Fleet and to provide direct support for BMD planning,” according to the memo.

The task force’s creation comes as the Navy has sent its third Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense-equipped destroyer to Rota, Spain, and is preparing to send the fourth this fall. The four ships, from their European homeport, will dedicate their time to both routine missions like partnership-building exercises as well as missile defense patrols on behalf of the United States and NATO. An advance team has already deployed to the first Aegis Ashore missile defense site in Romania, and the second site in Poland will be operational in 2018.

The task force will help organize air and missile defense and ballistic missile defense missions as forces in the region continue to grow through the rest of the decade.

Creation of CTF-64 comes as Russian forces have stepped up air patrols since the seizure of the Crimean region of Ukraine in 2014.

  • Curtis Conway

    “The task force will help organize air and missile defense and ballistic missile defense missions….”.

    SM-2s Ashore? so they can defend themselves finally?

    • Wardawg02

      NO, SM3s and I assume SM6s in the future.
      This is the BMD portion of DCA not the ABT/etc part.

      • Curtis Conway

        Shucks . . . and here I thought they were going to actually defend themselves with a defense in depth. If they get SM-6 then SM-2 BlkIII and ESSM would give two more layers. The ESSM upgrade would come cheap relatively and provide coverage out to 20nm.

        • Wardawg02

          Well, Aegis ashore is a defense in depth against TBMs. Along with THAAD and Patriot (and I suppose Aegis ‘at sea’).

          In regards to the ABT DCA mission you do have defense in depth with the CAP itself and shipboard AD assets. Really an SM 2 ashore would not be of too much value from a naval defense aspect.

          • Curtis Conway

            Over simplification. Any fixed site is a target should the ‘Bubble go Up’. All Aegis Ashore sites are well inland so naval activity is threatening in only one way . . . land attack cruise missiles. Of course those missiles can be launched by air, ship, or land transport, and today the market is flush with inventory ready to ship to a customer near you. A Combat Air Patrol (CAP) is good against aircraft, and can be effective against cruise missiles. However, a coordinated multi-pronged attack which is what will happen. The cop can do the community no good if he does not wear his equipment (body armor & weapon). If a country is to employ Aegis Ashore and they do not include Air Defense in that mission package, then that decision dictated to the adversary which tactics to use to neutralize the threat to their missiles. Air Defense capability incorporated at any Aegis Ashore site will be cheap insurance compared to a site not so equipped and now destroyed site by cruise missiles, when compared to the damage created by all the missiles that could have been intercepted.

            Plan for the worse, and hope for the best. Be prepared for anything. And . . . what is your Plan B.

          • Wardawg02

            Could you try reformatting your argument? I don’t think you followed me or your reply is kinda hard to follow. I think I agree with some but not all of what you said but it is a bit scattered.

            Sorry that I can only reply from time to time.

          • Curtis Conway

            Know thyself and know thy enemy, and you will always be victorious. Always remember your adversaries point of view, assets, and abilities!

          • Wardawg02

            Huh? I try to do all that stuff. But I still do not get your core argument.

            You are getting overly general on a specific point of debate. I am enjoying the debate and would love to continue it.

            However, I did not wrap my head around why you think Aegis ashore should have SM-2s.

          • Curtis Conway

            The SM-2 has a limited capability against TBMs. The numbers are not great, and I would not want to rely on just that capability, but I would not ignore the capability, particularly with SM-2 propensity for skin-to-skin on non-maneuvering targets. However, the SM-2 has an awesome capability against air breathing threats, and missiles endoatmosphere.

            If I were building an Aegis Ashore, remembering that our adversaries currently have, or will have shortly, cruise missiles that have sufficient range and can go both ways ( conv & nuc) an AAW capability, particularly considering the low cost when included up front, would be an absolute in my configuration. I would even throw in a couple quad cells of ESSM just for good measure.

            Fixed fortified emplacements, like the Magineue Line are monuments to man’s stupidity, but in this case technology marches on and we MUST DEFEND the capability (ABM), and organic AAW defense that is inherent in the system (that’s why we built it) is a logical and natural progression at this point. In my mind it not being there in the first place (neutering AAW in Aegis Ashore) screams insanity, particularly in Europe at this point in time.

            Putin deciding to attack one would be nuts, but how has he been acting lately? Well . . . If your that nuts, launching one way missions to eliminate Aegis Ashore in furtherance of other goals to follow, is no beyond the pale.

          • Wardawg02

            Multi-point reply to your intriguing post. Again, sorry for the late reply, work and such.

            1) Remember that Aegis Ashore does not operate in a vacuum and there are other, in this case US Army and coalition TBM (and ABT/CM) defenses on the field. Aegis Ashore should compliment those force. Your post did get me to look into the SM2’s capabilities a bit more and I thank you for that. Interesting reads on various networks. I would say irt ABTs: even near peer competitors like Russia would have a rough time of it in an extremely crowded airspace (in every sense of the word). I generally find air-force and naval fighter jocks annoying but I will say this about them – every one wants to be an ace (outside of their minds where, it seems, 100% of them already are). Anyway, leaving aside the DCA counter-ABT fight CM/TBMs become the most critical component. Given that our adversaries are not dumb, they know that allowing a conventional US buildup is counterproductive to their health. So I see APDs and SPODs and the ‘key terrain’ of future conflicts (irt the land fight – shipping lanes and naval choke points are clearly still relevant ‘key terrain’ for the Sailors of the world). APODs and SPODs are vulnerable to long range fires from CMs and TBMs – even conventionally armed ones. So as far as joint and coalition fires goes the SM2s would generally fill a critical niche particularly in the CM fight. In my mind controlling those joint/coalition counter CM/TBM fires is going to be an incredible task (we probably need to expand those training opportunities for CRCs/TAOCs/Naval controllers as well as enhancing and solidifying the joint doctrine for those fires). Lastly, a note on nukes: Despite bluster and capability, I find it highly unlikely that a rational foe (despite some people’s, perhaps your, opinion to the contrary Russia/China, even NK and Iran for that matter, are rational) will use nukes. Nuking US forces is a guaranteed path to complete regime change and that capability would be retained until it was clear that regime change was inevitable anyways.

            Whew, sorry for the stream of consciousness in the above, I will try to organize my next thoughts more.

            2) On fixed fortified sites:

            You may have a point about the Maginot Line. It proved tactically ineffective because Germany decided to avoid it operationally. However, that operational decision did have strategic consequences for them. The “Great” Wall of China was similarly ineffective (Norther Raiders either rode around the fixed defenses or bribed/threatened their way through). However, fixed defense, particularly fixed point defenses, have been a force multiplier and critical to military operations since ancient times. The examples throughout history are numerous, but just considering Europe we can move from the Roman’s use of them to operationally and strategically defeat Carthage despite tactical maneuver defeats – through the “Dark” and “Middle” age use of high wall castles that dramatically altered the shape and scope of military operations (and social/economic life) – through the vauban fortress – to shore and air defenses of airfields and ports in WWI and WWII. You strike me as a naval guy of some sort. The defense at, say, Malta and at the Bosporus strait were relevant to 20th century naval operations in the European theater – to say nothing of the operational and strategic effectiveness of Malta. Point fixed defenses enhance the survivability of critical assets, like APODs and SPODs as I mentioned (also C2 nodes come to mind). They also act as a conservation of forces at the operational level allowing maneuver forces to go do their thing. So, I disagree that they are monuments to man’s stupidity although some do appear that way prima facie.

            3) As an amateur analyst (emphasis on the amateur) I generally view it as extremely unlikely that the head of any state is irrational. “Rouge Nations” are a possibility that should not be excluded but I cannot come up with many or any good examples throughout history or today that actually meet the irrational actor theory. Don’t get em wrong, Nations and States do and have miscalculated. That is the real risk and often when we call on the Armed Forces…either we or our foe have miscalculated some risk or threat. That being said it is important to try your damnedest NOT to miscalculate and understanding that our view of the world is different from potential adversaries. For example, Russia often (always?) appears aggressive for no particular reason. However, if you study their history you will discover that they have a habit of being invaded by, well, just about everyone who has ever invaded anyone. They have been directly by the Fins, Swiss, Baltic Nations, Germans (more than once), the French, the Turks, The United States, The British, The Japanese, The Chinese . . . I am sure I am missing someone – oh yeah – the Mongols, who are basically responsible for founding the Nation/State of Russia as we know it. Much of this is pathetically bad geography that the Russian Nation finds itself on. They are basically on a huge open section at the Eastern Edge of the Great North European Plain. There are zero natural barrier of note (excluding the easy to avoid Pripet marshes). Armies like to march along this plain and invade Russia for whatever reason (Mackinder has a strong opinion on why). Anyway, Russia views the world through this lens. Given that worldview the ONLY way to protect the heartland is to have space to trade for time and so you need your forces as far from the core as possible, hopefully anchored on some piece of terrain or another. Hence you can basically draw a geographical line along the southern edge of Russia Eastward all the way to the Pacific (the Urals being of questionable value as a defensive mountain range). That southern boundary makes sense, mostly. However to the West the Plain stretches all the way to Bordeaux. With Russia looking at declining demographics and a highly shaky economic backbone in energy, they MUST act now to solidify or at least stop the Eastward creep of its foes. You may strongly believe that NATO/Europe/the USA would never ever invade Russia and strike at Moscow. Russia does not have the luxury of believing that and frankly is hardwired to believe otherwise. The “aggressive and irrational” action that the West perceives in Russian movements are actually “defensive and highly rational” in Moscow’s mind.

            It is not really that relevant to the great sweep of history (as long as we do not miscalculate) because Russia is frankly “doomed”, if you will, in the medium run (demographics and economics and geography). All that Washington has to do is avoid being really dumb and contain Russia, generally speaking, and allow it to implode naturally. Which ties us back to Aegis ashore. TBM/CM defense is a cheap (relatively speaking) way to contain Moscow’s natural Westward expansion. It is also less aggressive than say aircraft-carriers and Mech/Armored Divisions – less aggressive reduces the risk of miscalculation.

            So from a tactical, operational, and grand strategic perspective Aegis Ashore fits into a rational and effective US plan.

            Hope that all makes sense. Sorry, I am not receiving a grade, I am done with that for more that a few years) nor is this being submitted for peer review so I “aint gonna reread” to check for flow and stuff.

          • Curtis Conway

            Thank you for your reply, timely or not. The SM-2 Blk III and up has enhanced capability in other areas of concern that everyone must recognize. The new SM-6 minus the Mk 72 Booster is even more deadly, and any future Aegis FFG/destroyer/cruiser for example should be equipped with them because they will intercept a TBM with a significant enhanced Probability of Kill (PK).

            The United States is not likely to develop land bridges any time soon so as long as we are a Maritime Nation “where are the carriers” and having a capable fleet, and hopefully a proactive presence, is going to stay in the mix for the foreseeable future.

            The quote about fixed fortifications being a monument to man’s stupidity is a paraphrase from George Patton. Your point about point defense is taken, and applied in the Macro for BMD, and yes it frees other things up. The nation of Poland has a attitude about that I think, particularly given Kaliningrad, and all the recent activity going on there, right next door.

            I will stand with the “better safe than sorry” on the nuclear posture. That IS what nuclear deterrent is all about? However, with the current administration, and his proximity to the football, I think a clear message is being communicated. The ‘Nuts’ are probably going to gamble, is this amateur analyst’s estimate. I don’t think The Man has the cohunes to turn a country into a glass parking lot. Again that is this amateur analyst’s estimate. He will lie and obfuscate as long as he can get away with it, and blame someone else when he gets caught, but an “A” leader who owns his mistakes he is not.

            Concerning risk, we must always have our plan “B” & “C” contingencies in our back pocket and ready to go. Retaining good relations with the Mongols is an excellent idea which the USMC exercises with from time to time. As for Invasions, it seems the Russians have been in the business most prolifically, most recently (Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine). This amateur analyst will stick with the most recent experience as an indicator of most likely behavior.

            As for Russian Energy . . . they have invested heavily and now have a huge gas and oil infrastructure that even tweaks Europe from time to time, which is why we should help Ukraine with developing their oil and gas, then make them a good customer for our products (mostly defense). However, they make pretty good transports in Kiev, which is providing much consternation to one KGB Colonel lately who wants those transports dearly.

            I am an Aegis Ashore fan and proponent having been involved with that system for over a decade in my past. I know what it can do, and today it does even more. In my estimation no US Navy Surface Combatant should ever be built that cannot at least defend itself against a TBM (and RAM/SeaRAM ain’t it!). That capability in itself makes it a viable platform, in some scenarios, to do other interesting things.

            It’s been fun . . . Cheers!

          • Curtis Conway

            Another thought now that I have driven home and contemplated your comments: The HiStory walk down Russia’s past with respect to invasions by others, under communists’ government and before, is interesting but not germane in my mind given the current context.
            To help our New Allie Russia we pushed a “Reset Button” and withdrew
            forces from Europe, some of which had been there since WWII. The Russians were so impressed and wanted to reward us for this action, the Russian Military started conducting ‘Snap’ readiness exercises in every theater, and on every border, and in some cases increasing activity like in the Arctic. Our withdrawal was in the climate of NATO Allies who had mostly neglected their own defense infrastructures due to the US carrying the load. As the NATO/European Allies began to assume
            more responsibility for their own defense with greater spending, and increased cooperation amongst neighbors via exercises with Russian cooperation and participation until Crimea, the Russians begin this most recent activity. Some of the most disturbing Russian activity is their ‘burning up’ of their old nuclear delivery system creating modern art
            in the upper atmosphere over Norway (Google search Norwegian Spiral) for over a year now, replacing it with something much more accurate, reliable (e.g., deadly), and have a very well exercised nuclear ICBM force that is hot and ready to go. In my mind the ‘Russia has always been invaded’ is westerners drinking the Russian Koolaid, as Russia gets ready
            for who knows what. If one is a believer in Biblical Prophecy, the Bear and the Dragon rising in a coordinated way, is not a friendly indicator. If your not a believer, and you ignore this activity . . . well, it would be politically incorrect to go there . . .

  • Patrick

    So what I’m hearing, and is implied in the article, is missile defense only. This is a current failing of things IAMD because it forgets the “air” part of it. Air isn’t just combat jets and their payloads but unmanned aircraft systems which pretty much all of the Services are woefully unprepared to train against; especially the detect, track, and identify aspect. There are TTPs developed for counter-UAS as part of IAMD as developed by a recently closed (this year) OSD Joint Test; now its a publication aspect to get those TTP out via the Air Land Sea Application Center timeline as they add these TTP to their IAMD MTTP document.

    • Curtis Conway

      I’m not privy to the TTP or MTTP, but the Aegis system is, at entry level, capable of detecting, tracking, and controling a missile to target provided the weapon is onboard, and always has been able to do that since we put her to sea in the ’80s. All IAMD does is add the ability to engage things exoatmospheric to some extent given the capability of the missile, and external tippers received. It’s all about warning, timing, and altitude, and being in the right place at the right time. THAT is why every Aegis platform should have the capability ASAP. The baseline of ever Surface Comatant built from this day forward should, at a minimum, have some portion of the BMD mission, even if it’s just SM-2 Blk IIIs coming out of a cell, directed by a 9-module AMDR non-rotating 3D radar.

      • Patrick

        Concur, however, it remains unclear how the Navy would be conducting any of the “Air” part of IAMD. All the aspects of missile defense are great; yet this isn’t IMD, its IAMD and the air part still has to be considered. Do we really want to fire SM-2/SM-6 at UAS that cost far less than the missiles? Expanding the discussion to note where AEGIS fits (afloat and ashore) would have provided a better aspect; especially since the Executive Agent for missile defense is the Air Force but they don’t have the assets so the Army (with Patriot and THAAD) are the actual executers. Since getting IAMD/BMD assets into European countries is hard, the AEGIS is the compromise.

        • Curtis Conway

          Aegis provides a comprehensive answer through the use of Integrated Air & Missile Defense (IAMD). What part of this is not understood? What has happened is the gutting of the ‘IA’ part of the system, and just fielded the ‘MD’ portion of the system and primarily for exoatmospheric intercepts at that. That ‘IA’ being one of the most successful intercept records in HiStory in all services. Leaving that organic capability in place is far cheaper, safer, and as (if not more) capable than the systems you mention, those systems that could be moved at any time. If the ‘IA’ part of the system would ever be ‘not capable’ of performing its mission, it would be in the absence of the appropriate weapons types (or ran out of them {e.g., ESSM}) or the site capability has been compromised for all operations for which is was installed.

          “Do we really want to fire SM-2/SM-6 at UAS that cost far less than the missiles?”.

          Distractions, deflection, and irrelevance is not becoming this argument. Of course we are not going to burn up SM-2/6 on UAS {e.g., ESSM}. However, when the Russians come with the big guns you better have a robust organic Air Defense capability in depth, and that capability not able to be removed due to great political pressure or other considerations. Learn from HiStory or you are bound to repeat it. Ask a Marine on Guadalcanal, or any one of a dozen other examples.

          Your argument is like a hunter who takes off his fixed sights and uses only a scope that will focus on 1,000 yd targets, and is then ambushed by a foe close aboard where he can only boresight down the barrel and pray.

          I saw Jurassic World for the very first time this week. Seems there is a parallel here somewhere. Either you are familiar with this environment called COMBAT, or otherwise.

          • Patrick

            Since you aren’t the moderator, stop trying to note that my comments are distractions or deflecting. You fail to note anything related to the combined approach to IAMD and label AEGIS as the only asset capable of doing it and its not nor was it ever designed to be the end all be all.

            I noted AEGIS is one part of IAMD and that is what is missing from the article and you immediately not my input is a distraction and deflectionary. Last I looked, the Russian “big guns” aren’t just missiles or just over the water.

            AEGIS is not the comprehensive solution because its on a ship and last I looked, AEGIS has done zero in central Iraq or anywhere in Afghanistan since ships can’t go their. Hardly comprehensive and that’s where the assets you note as “not as capable” come into play; and given Patriot has combat experience against enemy ballistic missiles I’m curious to identify what enemy missiles AEGIS has engaged outside of testing? Please list the examples since i need to “learn HIStory”

            Also, from an air aspect, all air defense systems have had their issues related to wrong engagements from accidental Patriot shots at friendly aircraft to AEGIS engaging the Iranian Airbus.

            You’re also missing the point that it is a combined effort; I don’t care how successful one system is. If it can’t be integrated then its not fully successful. Since the “Air” part includes UAS, but you note an SM wouldn’t be used, then AEGIS is not comprehensive because using it against UAS isn’t the right thing to do (according to you) and that’s not your call–its the Commanders who owns the asset.

            And missile defense is not focused on exo-atmospheric only since many missiles don’t leave the atmosphere and last I looked, ex-atmospheric kVs have yet to really do their jobs; but if I need a satellite shot down I’ll go order up an SM-3

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