Feb 12, 2014
First of four missile destroyers arrives in Spain
The USS Donald Cook, pulled into the U.S. Navy base in Rota.
Plans call for the USS Donald Cook to be joined by three more Arleigh Burke-class missile-guided destroyers, which carry the Aegis weapon system, over the coming two years. All are to be stationed at the base in Rota, on the Atlantic coast north of Gibraltar.
Other pieces of the missile defense shield include land-based Aegis interceptor batteries in Romania and Poland, radar in Turkey and a command center at Ramstein, Germany.
The plan has caused a major rift with Russia, which says the shield is aimed against its own nuclear missile arsenal. The U.S. and its NATO allies insist the defense system is meant to protect Europe from potentially hostile countries in the region, such as Iran.
The destroyer detachment expands the Navy presence in Europe at a time when other services are drawing down across the continent.
U.S. interest in the Mediterranean has risen in recent years because of conflicts and instability across the region, from Syria to Egypt and North Africa. The Mediterranean is also a significant waterway for commercial shipping and an access point to Middle Eastern waters from the Atlantic.
The ships will make regular four-month deployments around the Mediterranean basin. In addition to operations related to missile defense, they will be available for other maritime security operations, bilateral and multilateral training exercises, and other NATO deployments.
The three destroyers to join the Donald Cook are the USS Ross, theUSS Porter, and the USS Carney. Destroyer Squadron 60 in Rota will control the four ships.