In Crete, last week, under the care of the hosting NATO member Greece at the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI), the Western world’s most sophisticated defensive weapon systems deployed by Germany and operated by German, Dutch, and U.S. crews under their NATO mission, fired 37 surface-to-air Patriot interceptor missiles to destroy remotely operated drones representing air breathing threats and target short-range ballistic missiles. It was a significant live-fire exercise in certification of participating German Patriot units representing a significant step towards renewing a five year NATO verification of Germany’s contribution to NATO in air and missile defense forces. The firing exercises also integrated mixed fire control crews made up of German, Dutch and the U.S. soldiers using German equipment, and a separate firing of U.S. manned fire control crews operating on the German Patriot units.
This significant firing exercise, unparalleled by any nation in modern times in terms of number of interceptor missiles launched, marks a demonstration of a force multiplier by enabling mixed NATO member crews to man member nations’ integrated air and missile defense equipment, creating the framework for a future NATO joint rapid expeditionary air and missile defense force that trains together, fires together, deploys together, and fights together for the air and missile defense of NATO Europe.
Five NATO member nations, the United States, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, and Greece, currently deploy the Patriot integrated air and missile defense system with Poland on track to become the sixth soon. All of these Patriot systems operate as “lower tier” point defense, operating during the terminal phase of a ballistic missiles flight, which occurs when the missile reenters the earth’s atmosphere. NATO’s “lower tier” missile defense system is currently deployed separately by three NATO member countries in Turkey per their Article 5 request to NATO. The European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), instituted by President Obama and paid for by the United States for the ballistic missile defense of NATO Europe, intercepts in the “upper tier” in space, providing large area defense compared to the point defense of the lower tier system.
The primary interceptor platforms of the EPAA system are the U.S. Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Ships and U.S. Aegis Ashore land-based systems. The Aegis Ashore site in Romania is scheduled to be operational later this year and the site in Poland is tabbed for operation in 2017. Unlike the four assigned U.S. Navy Aegis BMD Ships based in Rota, Spain, the land-based EPAA Aegis Ashore sites are not enabled for their own “lower tier” air and missile defense capability and protection. NATO would be looked to for responsibility in providing “lower tier” air and missile defense should the threat arise to the Aegis Ashore Sites. A NATO contribution to EPAA in providing lower tier capability would be a legitimate, responsible sharing of cost and burden for the defense of NATO Europe.
There is not a better location in Europe to demonstrate NATO capability in air and missile defense in annual training and firing exercises than the established NAMFI in Crete, Greece. The firing range extends north and has 166 by 87 kilometer range over open water that can eventually include Aegis BMD Ships, a THAAD system, PAC-3 and MSE interceptors. The NAMFI range is similar in size to the U.S. firing range in White Sands, New Mexico where THAAD, PAC 3 and MSE have been tested and fired. For all of NATO member nations, and especially those involved with deploying integrated air and missile defense systems, bringing all of their systems together to interoperate with each other in an annual firing exercise demonstrates a collective resolve and sends a strategic message of force multiplication to those that seek to threaten NATO Europe.
In the nation state of Greece, the cradle of Western civilization and birthplace of Socrates and Aristotle, the island of Crete is strategically located between Turkey and Greece in the Mediterranean Sea. Many world empires have held this island with a natural deep-water port to protect and defend access into and out of the Aegean Sea and the shorter seafaring routes from Africa and the Middle East to Europe. Today this critical strategic island can help to defend Western Civilization as it has done for thousands of years.
MDAA was honored to be invited to Crete last week to witness the significant air and missile defense firings and integration of NATO members on a common system that could represent the birth of a rapid response air and missile defense force for NATO.
Watch an intercept from live-fire exercises at Crete
MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.
MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.