U.S. to add two more anti-submarine, anti-missile destroyers to Mediterranean, Black, Barents Seas
In recent testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, General Tod Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, confirmed an earlier statement by him that two additional Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers are to be based at the Naval Station Rota in Spain in the next few years. The new warships will raise the total to six. Rota is immediately to the northwest of the Strait of Gibraltar and is ideally located for American naval vessels conducting operations in the Mediterranean Sea and from there to the Black Sea, and northward to the North, Norwegian and Barents Seas.
U.S. Navy’s 67 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are part of the Aegis Combat System and have been or can be equipped with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) anti-ballistic missiles or interceptor missiles. (The Standard Missile-3 has been progressing into increasingly more sophisticated and longer-range variants: Block IA, Block IB, Block IIA, Block IIB.) Each is also capable of being equipped with 56 Tomahawk cruise missiles that have been used with devastating effect in Iraq, the Bosnian Serb Republic, Afghanistan, Sudan, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria. The missile has been the Pentagon’s calling card in Eurasia, Africa and the Middle East over the past thirty years, even earning former secretary of state Madeleine Albright the informal moniker Madam Tomahawk. (Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman once wrote that for Albright foreign policy was a quiz show where the answer is always missiles.)
General Wolters stated in his testimony that the two additional destroyers would also be employed against Russian submarines. When the destroyer after which the type was named, USS Arleigh Burke, arrived at the Naval Station Rota on April 11 it had come from anti-submarine warfare operations in the Atlantic with fellow guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt and Virginia-class attack submarine USS Vermont.
The current four, soon six destroyers operating out of the Spanish base are part of NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense architecture. In the words of U.S. Navy, “These Forward-Deployed Naval Forces-Europe ships have the flexibility to operate throughout the waters of Europe and Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Arctic Circle, demonstrating their mastery of the maritime domain.”
They have routinely operated in the Black Sea. In February USS Donald Cook and USS Porter were there; in March USS Thomas Hudner was. Last year Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers were deployed to the Barents Sea, off the far northwestern coast of Russia, three times; the first time in thirty years American destroyers were sent there and the first time ever Arleigh Burke-class ones equipped with anti-ballistic missiles were.
Having a fleet of six U.S. warships capable of conducting anti-submarine warfare, firing a total of 336 Tomahawks and knocking out Russia missiles from the Black to the Barents Seas is a dangerous escalation of U.S. and NATO warfighting capabilities off Russia’s coasts.