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Aegis Ashore missile defense system goes online in Romania

By Ryan Maass
Aegis Ashore missile defense system goes online in Romania
The deckhouse for the Aegis Ashore system bound for Romania at the Lockheed Martin Aegis facility. Photo by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy has taken control of its new Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system in Romania after years of construction.

The Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system was installed to boost European defenses. The site is located at the Deveselu air base. Navy Times reports defense officials from the U.S. and Romania are expected to announce the radar site and missile battery reaching "technical capability" during a ceremony in Bucharest. It will later be declared fully operational after integration with the larger NATO missile defense network.

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"The Aegis Ashore site in Romania is an important step in our efforts to protect against the growing threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles of increasingly greater ranges, lethality, and sophistication," Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins told Navy Times. "The Romania site will provide a defensive capability to protect NATO Europe against ballistic missiles."

U.S. officials have also said the defense system aims to defend Europe from the nuclear threat of Iran. Russian officials dispute the claim, suggesting the establishment of a missile defense system in Eastern Europe is a direct slight to Moscow.

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President Obama issued a statement on planned missile defense systems in Europe in 2009.

"To put it simply, our new missile defense architecture in Europe will provide stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses of American forces and America's Allies," Obama said. "It sustains and builds upon our commitment to protect the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats; and it ensures and enhances the protection of all our NATO Allies."

An additional site is expected to become operational in Poland beginning in 2018.

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