NATO: EPAA Moves Forward

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has insisted that the Alliance’s European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) ballistic missile defence initiative will continue its development path in an Opinion Editorial article published in the Wall Street Journal.

There is speculation that NATO may declare an interim capability for the EPAA at the Alliance’s forthcoming summit in Chicago on 21/22nd May. This interim capability will stipulate that the EPAA’s architecture already in place will be able to perform limited engagements against ballistic missiles.

At present, this architecture principally includes a Raytheon AN/TPY-2 X-band surveillance radar in easternTurkey, and a permanent deployment of RIM-161 SM-3 surface-to-air missile (SAM) armed US Navy warships in theMediterranean.

Rasmussen also revealed that NATO had performed a series of recent simulated engagements to test the Alliance’s responses to a ballistic missile attack which involved Raytheon MIM-104 Patriot SAM systems belonging to the Luftwaffe (German Air Force), and the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (Royal Dutch Air Force).

Despite the anticipated declaration of this interim capability, the EPAA’s existence is still causing misgivings in Russia, with Moscow accusing NATO of altering the balance of power vis-à-vis the strategic nuclear arsenals of theUnited States and Russia. NATO has retorted that the EPAA is not designed to destroy Russia’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Force.

At the technical level, work is moving forward regarding the development of the SAMs which will be stationed in Poland and Romania as the interceptor element of the EPAA system. On 14th May, Raytheon announced that it had performed the first successful flight test of an RIM-161 SM-3 Block-IB SAM. During the test, a target missile was fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. Once the target had risen above the horizon, the Lockheed Martin AN/SPY-1A/B surveillance radar on board the USS Lake Erie, a ‘Ticonderoga’ class cruiser, acquired the target, and the ship then fired a RIM-161 SM-3 Block-IB  SAM at the target, which was then acquired by the missile’s infra-red seeker.

RIM-161 SM-3 Block-IB missiles are expected to be stationed in Romania from 2015 as part of the land-based element of the EPAA architecture.

Published by Thomas Withington

Thomas Withington is a writer and analyst specialising in electronic warfare, radar and military communications.

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