The Navy and U.S. Missile Defense Agency declared a ballistic missile defense site in Romania operational this week.
The Lockheed Martin-built Aegis Ashore facility in Deveselu is the first of two sites planned as part of the U.S. and NATO’s BMD network based on the same technology used in the Navy’s guided missile destroyers and cruisers to protect against ballistic missile threats.
The site is built around a SPY-1D(V) air-search radar linked to three 8-cell Mark-41 Vertical Launch Systems armed with Raytheon Standard Missile 3 interceptors – the same equipment used on destroyers. The installation is named by U.S. sailors.
The Deveselu site and one in Poland are part of the Obama administration’s 2009 European Phased Adaptive Approach for BMD and replaced a plan for a 10-silo ground-based system in Poland. In addition to the two sites, the second which plans to break ground on Friday, the U.S. has forward deployed four Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers for additional BMD patrols.
While intended to intercept threats from Iran, the installation of the sites has drawn protests from Russian officials who have repeatedly said the BMD sites blunt their own strategic weapon systems and could cause risk to Russian security.
“Who will this system be against?” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, questioned, according to the BBC.
“To begin with the explanation we were given was a potential rocket attack from Iran… Now we know the situation has changed dramatically.”
In addition to the rhetorical response, the Kremlin leaked plans late last year of the proposed Status-6 (or Kanyon) nuclear-tipped torpedo that would side-step U.S. BMD networks with a warhead capable of wiping out coastal cities.
Beyond the two sites in Poland and Romania, Lockheed Martin said there could be more international customers for Aegis Ashore.
“We hope there’s more market for Aegis Ashore in other places,” said Jim Sheridan, director of AEGIS development for Lockheed Martin in a Thursday call with reporters.
“But right now there’s no active program.”
Japan has been mentioned as a candidate for the system, but Sheridan told reporters there have been no active conversations between the company and Tokyo.
While the international path forward for the system is unclear, some in Congress look to expand the program in the U.S.
Included in the House Armed Services Committee’s proposed Fiscal Year 2017 defense bill are calls for studies to operationalize the Aegis Ashore test facility in Hawaii and for studies to examine installing the system in Guam.