December 3, 2011
Despite chest-pounding Russian protests, the US is moving ahead with plans to install a missile defense shield to protect NATO European territory, and has committed four of its 60 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to sit off the coast of Spain.
Geoff Ziezulewicz of Stars and Stripes reports that the ships will deploy to the 6th fleet in Rota, and bring with them a full Lockheed Martin Aegis combat system with a long list of heavy ordnance and a “detect to kill” radar array.
The radar system, and the ability to send missiles to destroy incoming ballistic missiles, is what the Russians are so upset about.
At over 500 feet in length, and costing almost $2 billion apiece, the Arleigh Burke class are among the largest destroyers in the American fleet and play a key role in missile defense.
Along with the array of radar, the Navy’s website points out the full weapons systems carried on each ship includes:
• 96 cell Mk 41 vertical launch system
• BGM-109 Tomahawk
• RGM-84 Harpoon SSM
• RIM-66M Standard medium range SAM (has an ASuW mode)
• RIM-161 Standard Ballistic missile defense missile for Aegis BMD
• RIM-162 ESSM SAM
• RUM-139 Vertical Launch ASROC
• RIM-174A Standard ERAM
• one 5 inch (127 mm/54) Mk-45 Mod 1/2 (lightweight gun)
• one 5 inch (127 mm/62) Mk-45 mod 4 (lightweight gun)
• two 20 mm Phalanx CIWS, two 25 mm bushmasters
• two Mark 32 triple torpedo tubes (six Mk-46 or Mk-50 torpedoes, Mk-54 in the near future)
The official Navy line seems to be downplaying the role of the ships in the Missile Defense Shield, saying the destroyers will be tasked with a variety of missions within the 6th Fleet’s 20 million square miles of sea.
It will be interesting to see how far they actually stray from European coast.