STUTTGART, Germany — As part of a plan to consolidate its air command headquarters, NATO officials have decided to make Ramstein Air Base the hub for alliance missions that range from NATO’s air police operations to a growing missile defense program, according Headquarters Allied Air Command Ramstein.
Currently, NATO has two air command headquarters: Ramstein Air Base in the north and a southern headquarters in Izmir, Turkey.
“That means you will now only have one air command headquarters left,” said Manfred Reudenbach, a spokesman for the NATO air command mission.
The consolidation is part of NATO’s ongoing reorganization, which is aimed at finding efficiencies. While NATO now has 400 personnel at Ramstein, the move is expected to increase that number to 500, Reudenbach said.
The move is expected to begin sometime this year, and will likely continue into 2013.
“They will include staff to deal specifically with missile defense,” Reudenbach said. “What you have is the command and control for missile defense forces.”
However, with just one headquarters, the total number of personnel within the air command headquarters will shrink by about 250 people, he said.
At the moment, NATO missile defense is at an “interim capability” focused on protecting forward-deployed troops, according to Reudenbach.
“In the future, we’re also going to have protection of alliance territories. It’s still a long way to go,” he said.
The U.S. also is pursuing missile defense in Europe, with a plan to coordinate those efforts with NATO’s.
Last month, the U.S. Army activated a command-level air and missile defense unit at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, just a few miles east of Ramstein.
In October, U.S. officials announced plans to send four U.S. Navy ships to Naval Station Rota, Spain, beginning in 2013 as part of the missile defense system. The U.S. also is expected to spend about $400 million as part of a plan to send a ground-based radar system to Romania by 2015. Interceptors also are expected to be set up in Poland by 2018.