Romania and U.S. sign agreement over Ballistic Missile Defense System

Bucharest, 14 Sept 2011: The Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed an agreement over the deployment of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System on Romanian soil yesterday.

It was not known previously that the Obama administration had asked Romania to accept part of the ballistic missile shield, but Romanian President Traian Basescu announced the step in a press release earlier this week. The U.S. will station the land-based version of its SM-3 ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in the East European country until 2015. A statement published by the State Department said that, “In addition to deepening the bilateral strategic relationship between our two countries, cooperation in this area will make a substantial contribution to NATO’s collective security and will be an integral part of a NATO missile defense capability.”

The BMD-site in Romania is destined to offer protection from missiles being fired from the Middle East. Since there is no country in the region other than Iran that will be able to fire ballistic missiles capable of reaching Europe in the near future, the measure is clearly aimed at that country.

Bulgaria was also a candidate for the the BMD-facility but last May it was agreed to install the missiles at Deveselu Air Base, southeast of Caracal, about 30 kilometers north of the Bulgarian border.

The SM-3 missile was originally (as the RIM-161) designed as a sea-based defense against short and medium range ballistic missile threats. The weapon is currently used on cruisers and destroyers of the US Navy, like the DDG-51-class and although a test of the newest version SM-3 IB was considered a failure (see article on Aviation Week), the operational history of the older versions is excellent.

The Standard Missiles are beginning to see service in other navies like the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces as well and is considered by the Royal Dutch Navy. The missile itself has four stages, is only 6.5 meters long and has a range of 500+ kilometers with a speed exceeding Mach 9.

Because of their success as a sea-based shield against incoming ballistic missiles the SM-3 are now getting adapted for land-based used, primarily in countries allied with the U.S. The land-based version is fired from vertical launchers just like the sea-based one and uses a mobile radar system. Since all the  components only have to be adapted to their new use, the cost of the overall system is about 80% less than for the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) missile proposed for strategic missile defense by the Bush administration.

(Sources: Raytheon, Defense Industry Daily, MDAA; 15 Sept 2011)


About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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