USS Porter takes up residence in Rota, Spain
NAPLES, Italy — The Navy destroyer USS Porter arrived at its new home in southern Spain on Thursday, the third of four American warships to be stationed in Europe as part of a ballistic missile defense shield.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is equipped with an Aegis missile-tracking system designed to target and destroy medium-range missiles in flight. It will make regular four-month patrols from a Navy base in Rota, Spain, as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, the U.S. contribution to a Europe-based NATO missile shield.
The Porter left Norfolk, Va., in March and joins two other missile destroyers in Rota: the USS Donald Cook and the USS Ross, both of which arrived in 2014. The fourth destroyer, the USS Carney, is expected in Rota later this year.
The shield has caused a major rift with Russia, which says NATO missile defense plans are 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, such as Iran.
Other components of the EPAA include a radar facility in Turkey, a command headquarters in Germany and planned interceptor sites in Romania and Poland.
The U.S. began making ballistic missile defense patrols in 2011, with ships deploying from the East Coast. Navy officials say stationing the ships in Europe saves money and manpower.
The four destroyers present new options for Navy commanders in Europe, which is getting renewed attention because of tensions in eastern Europe, Syria and North Africa. Before 2014, the Navy stationed a single command ship in the region.
The ships have raised the U.S. base population of Rota, a former Cold War submarine base and logistics hub set inside a larger Spanish base on the Atlantic coast, near Cadiz.
They were expected to add roughly 1,200 sailors and personnel, along with 1,800 family members, according to base officials.