US to send another Aegis-equipped ship to Mediterranean

US to send another Aegis-equipped ship to Mediterranean

US to send another Aegis-equipped ship to Mediterranean

Guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) approaches guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) during a "sail pass" in the Baltic Sea. Mahan recently turned over duties to Normandy as the flagship for Rear Adm Michael K. Mahon, commander of Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) U.S. Navy Photo By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Vincent J. Street (RELEASED)

The U.S. will send an additional anti-missile Aegis-equipped ship to the Mediterranean this fall to defend Turkey and other NATO allies against ballistic missile threats, U.S. Navy spokeswoman Cmdr. Pamela Rawe told Anadolu Agency on Aug. 19. 

“The U.S. is committed to the defense of our NATO allies, which includes Turkey,” Rawe said.

The remarks came only days after the U.S. announced Aug. 16 it had informed the Turkish government the U.S. deployment of Patriot air and missile defense units in Turkey, which expires in October, will not be renewed. A day earlier, Germany also said it would pull its Patriot missile batteries from southern Turkey.

No decision has yet been taken on replacing the German Patriot anti-missile systems and NATO is continuing consultations on the issue after Germany decided to pull out its Patriot batteries in Turkey, a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News on Aug. 19.  

The additional ship deployment brings the total number of ship-borne anti-missile Aegis systems in the Mediterranean to four.

“The forward-deployment of these four ships is part of the president’s [U.S. President Barack Obama] European Phased Adaptive Approach [EPAA] that calls for using BMD-capable Aegis ships and Aegis Ashore sites to defend Europe against ballistic missile threats originating in the Middle East,” Rawe added.

The U.S.’ decision to offset its removal of Patriot missile batteries from Turkey with Aegis-equipped naval ships brings with it new tactical advantages, according to Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association.

In addition, the ships - Ticonderoga-type cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers - have wider capabilities than their land-based missile counterparts, such as Patriot batteries, due to their mobility, Anadolu Agency said. 

The Aegis systems fire both SM-3 short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles and short-range SM-2 missiles, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal said the Aegis-equipped ships bring a “range of capabilities to support the defense of Turkey and NATO missions.”

“U.S. Naval Forces in Europe will continue their close cooperation with the Turkish Navy in the region in support of Turkish defense needs,” Seal said.

In making the decision not to renew the deployment of its Patriot batteries in order to modernize the weapons systems, Washington stressed the Syrian government’s ballistic missile stockpiles have been significantly depleted over the course of the country’s civil war, now in its fifth year, undercutting the reason for their initial deployment.

“We’ve seen the [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad regime grow weaker, and we’ve seen them shoot through the majority of their missiles stock at targets there domestically,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters.

Kimball agreed, saying the Aegis systems could address any potential threats stemming from Syria’s remaining missiles.

“They can deal with that, and they can be moved much more easily geographically because they’re on floating vessels,” he said.