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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The USS McCampbell’s arrival to Yokosuka in June 2007 means all of Yokosuka’s ships (save the aircraft carrier USS Kity Hawk and the 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge) will carry the surface-to-air integrated weapons system, called Aegis.

But the San Diego-based destroyer comes as part of a routine ship swap with the USS Gary, not specifically to bolster ballistic missile defense, Navy officials said this week.

Several Japanese media reports linked the McCampbell’s arrival to strengthening the U.S./Japanese ballistic missile defense. But the ship is considered a “regular” Aegis guided-missile destroyer not a “BMD,” said Cmdr. David Waterman, a spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Japan.

“This ship rotation is part of the Navy’s long-range plan to routinely replace older ships assigned to the Navy’s Forward Deployed Naval Forces with newer or more capable surface combatants,” Waterman said. “Naval forces forward-deployed to this area can react in a timely manner in a variety of situations throughout the region.”

Aegis is a phased-array radar system combined with a high-speed computer system that replaced rotating radars of the past. The system gives the ship 360-degrees of coverage to detect and sort over 100 missiles and aircraft at a time. If it detects a threat, Aegis assigns and guides surface-to-air missiles to the target.

Fully BMD-equipped ships — like the USS Shiloh, which replaced the USS Chancellorsville in August — have long-range surveillance and tracking systems and the capability to launch SM-3 Standard missiles. By 2009, 18 Navy ships worldwide — 15 guided-missile destroyers and three guided-missile cruisers — will be fully BMD-equipped, said U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Jon Yoshishige.

“Because of security concerns, we will not discuss the specific schedule for future installations and deployments for particular ships, nor address specific weapon or system load outs,” Waterman said.

The Gary — Yokosuka’s last frigate and commissioned in 1984 — will return to the United States once the McCampbell, commissioned in 2002 arrives next summer.

The McCampbell carries about 150 more sailors than the Gary. CNFJ should be able to absorb the increased sailors and their families with “no problem,” Waterman said.

“No impact on the existing station infrastructure or community should occur as a result of this ship swap,” Waterman said. “Crew and family members will be assigned for normal overseas tour lengths.”


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