The first of four U.S. Navy destroyers to form the centerpiece of Europe’s missile defense shield departed the U.S. East Coast on Friday for its new home port in southern Spain.
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, in the coming two years. All are to be stationed at the U.S. Navy base in Rota, Spain, on the Atlantic coast north of Gibraltar.
Other pieces of the missile defense shield, known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach, include land-based Aegis interceptor batteries in Romania and Poland, radar in Turkey and a command center at the U.S. Air Force base in 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 to 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. It follows the Navy’s current emphasis on forward deployment, or having ships stationed closer to areas of interest...