Monday, February 2, 2015

Missile defense ships face arms race, high op tempo

Missile defense ships face arms race, high op tempo: There may be rough seas ahead for the Navy's ballistic missile defense force.

Demands are high for the Navy's BMD-capable ships and, soon, land sites, and for good reason. More than 1,200 ballistic missiles have been added to the arsenals of potential adversaries in the past five years, according to the Missile Defense Agency.

North Korea, Syria and Iran are making strides in development and production, with Iran ready as soon as this year to test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States, according to reports by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

As this new arms race threatens American allies, 33 ships — five cruisers and 28 destroyers — are standing on point to deter any such attack. Ships armed with ballistic missile defense radars and interceptors are among the fleet's most in-demand vessels, whether in the Asia-Pacific or European waters.

And those crews have paid a price. The former head of Fleet Forces Command, Adm. Bill Gortney, said the ballistic missile defense armada is "the most stressed [and has] the highest operational tempo of all our forces." The new FFC boss is working to cut deployments of stateside BMD-ships to seven-and-a-half months.

Despite the increasing threat, the Pentagon plans to lay up four of the fleet's newest ships, and the remaining gray hulls are faced with increasing maintenance issues.