America's Fleet of Missile-Destroying Warships Has Set Sail for Europe, and It's Making Russia Nervous


USS Donald Cook leading a flotilla of destroyers. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On Jan. 31, a United States guided missile destroyer called the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) departed Norfolk Naval Base bound for Rota, Spain. Cruising at 20 knots, this would be an eight-day voyage, putting the Cook in port in Spain right about now.

But the USS Donald Cook is no ordinary destroyer. And this is no ordinary mission.

Lafayette, we are here
In fact, the Cook is a very special kind of guided missile destroyer. It's the first of four of America's "DDGs" to be outfitted with a new version of the Aegis anti-aircraft defense system, specially designed to shoot down ballistic missiles. And it represents the vanguard of America's new Europe-based Ballistic Missile Defense -- a $22 billion, decades-long project to defend against missile strikes from a nuclear-armed Iran.


Ship-borne ballistic missile defense test-firing aboard the USS Hopper (DDG 70) near Hawaii. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In a few months, the destroyer USS Ross (DDG-71) will join Cook in Spain. Two more ships, the USS Carney (DDG-64) and USS Porter (DDG-78), will double their strength in 2015. Once all are arrived, Cook and her three sister ships will base themselves out of Rota -- a major Spanish naval base just northwest of Cadiz (and for history buffs, not far from the site of Admiral Lord Nelson's Battle of Trafalgar).

"Battle of Trafalgara," painting by William Lionel Wyllie, Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Based out of Rota, these four vessels will run rotating patrol assignments -- two ships on patrol, two in port. Combined with a pair of on-land anti-ballistic missile defense sites to be built in Romania and Poland, Cook will constitute a permanent presence in Europe, guaranteeing the continent's safety against missile strikes by rogue regimes.

Extending an "Aegis" over Europe
In Greek mythology, "Aegis" was the name of Athena's shield, forged by Hephaestus and used by Perseus as a defense against the gorgon Medusa. In modern times, Aegis may prove even more important -- extending a missile shield over Europe, and preventing America from being held hostage to threats against its allies. It's of great importance to U.S. defense contractors as well, representing a multibillion-dollar revenue stream.

Most of the biggest defense companies play a role in Aegis. Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT  ) designed the system, and will be paid close to $900 million to outfit destroyers with Aegis systems, and to set up Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System, or AAMDS, bases in Romania and Poland. Raytheon (NYSE: RTN  ) builds the SM-3 IB and IIA interceptor missiles that form the point of Aegis' "spear" (to mix metaphors a bit) -- projects worth upwards of $3.5 billion to the company. Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK  )  plays a smaller role building the rocket engines that power the interceptors -- but even this small part is worth tens of millions of dollars to ATK. 

Defensive investments at risk
All of these companies have vested interests in seeing Aegis succeed, and proceed to installation. But not everyone is happy about Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, and it could yet get derailed by political concerns. Iran is of course particularly unenthused about the plan. But in Russia, too, paranoia about the missile defense shield runs high, with President Vladimir Putin warning that Aegis BMD "is a significant component of a strategic offensive potential."

In the Russian Duma, foreign affairs committee Chairman Alexei Pushkov has called Aegis a "fake" defensive system. At the Foreign Ministry, diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov has threatened "withdrawal from the [START nuclear arms reduction] treaty" unless Aegis BMD is abandoned.

For the time being, it looks like the U.S. is still going full speed ahead with Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense. But if the Russians get their way, billions of dollars' worth of ongoing and planned defense contracts could grind to a halt -- and Europe would remain defenseless against the threat of ballistic missile attack. 

USS Donald Cook and sister ships, transiting the Atlantic. Photo: U.S. Navy.

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Read/Post Comments (42) | Recommend This Article (32)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 3:06 PM, amvet wrote:

    Well, the Motley Fool is now an agent for the US military-industrial-complex. Why become a propaganda tool?

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 3:21 PM, Dahun wrote:

    Now, what would we do if Democrats were successful and trashed the Anti-ballistic Missile System?

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 3:32 PM, dryoy wrote:

    hee..hee...yap nervous?...Putin cancel "olympics " and trembling in his den?...waiting for "armageddon"..not to type about CHina?

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 3:46 PM, TCraw2000 wrote:

    If the Europeons needed this so darn bad, I'm sure they would be building their own defense system!

    France,Germany,Belgium,etc.etc. are they helping to pay for this system we have protecting them?

    I don't hear much about them wanting this system!

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 4:25 PM, peterwolf wrote:

    Oh please !! Nothing we do 'makes Russia nervous' anymore. Because they've got Obama's number so well they know that all they need do is wrinkle their forehead at him and he'll go running for cover. In fact he'll probably apologize and offer to scuttle the entire fleet U. S. Navy.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 4:29 PM, bobcat34 wrote:

    Yeah well the chinese had better get worried too, thier missle system is in the toilet with this, they may be bought down over their land

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 4:30 PM, peterwolf wrote:

    Russia has threatened "withdrawal from the [START nuclear arms reduction] treaty" unless Aegis BMD is abandoned.

    What a joke. Russia is already violating START and has been doing so for years !! Even our cowardly State Department came close to acknowledging that just this week when they expressed 'concern' over Russia's deployment of new cruise missiles. Did we 'threaten' to withdraw from START because of that? No. Because we're afraid of Russia's reaction whereas they're completely indifferent to ours.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 5:18 PM, Dave697 wrote:

    "built in Romania and Poland"...what could possibly go wrong?

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 5:26 PM, pwm02176 wrote:

    I don't even need to read this article to grasp that it is total BS....Try to take things up a notch or two for Pete's sake.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 5:32 PM, bodegabayjoan wrote:

    Obama worries Putin like a gnat worries a grizzly.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 5:53 PM, McGill1001 wrote:

    I don't think this fellow did his research. Aegis Combat System which includes a Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) capability has been in service for years and in the Med. Yes, they are getting upgraded missiles. And yes they are developing a version to be based ashore, but that's old news.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 7:17 PM, udonjoe wrote:

    Rich's article is a bit misleading.

    First: A nervous Russia? While Russia is indeed against the BMD, AEGIS ships have circumvented the globe since the 1980s. The USS Cook is not the first ship capable of downing ballistic missiles. In sea trials for an AEGIS cruiser in 1990, one ship blasted 11 of 12 "missiles" fired at her; the only miss was but a technical one, related to the way the trial was configured.

    Second: Rich's citing of Greek mythology's Athena's Shield is sort of a cool way of thinking about the supporting radar, but since he mentioned it he should also set the record straight about what AEGIS actually stands for regarding these ships: Automated Engagement Guidance Intercept System.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 7:31 PM, navvet1967 wrote:

    I just hope they bring back the draft.seems to be the only way we can get rid of the liberal democrats.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 7:41 PM, LindaT1949 wrote:

    Why are you worrying? Mr Obama will NEVER use any weapon against anyone!! Hasn't he already PROVEN he is impotent against ANY threat to this country? He has gone belly up to Iran and their nuclear desires.....to Syria and it's crossing of HIS '' Red line in the sand '' threat(ooo my I was SOOOOO SCARED when I heard THAT one,....I lost about a minute of sleep) so why would Mr Putin...the former HEAD of the KGB have one iota of concern about ANY action this inept incompetent frat boy WE currently have to put up with takes? Oh and I DO hope I haven't upset anyone out there.....I know you supporters are a delicate bunch....

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 9:46 PM, hmc1997 wrote:

    Nervous Russia?

    Geez...

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 11:07 PM, foraipac wrote:

    "defend against missile strikes from a nuclear-armed Iran." Who are you kidding.

    The author thinks everyone is naive. Iran, Really. That is the excuse US has been using to install these missiles closer and closer to the Russians. It is also contradictory to what the story says, "Nervous Russia," yet using Iran as an excuse.

    They are for the purpose of advancing US hegemony in E.Europe.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 12:50 AM, FVeloz wrote:

    Putin's secret weapon: The Democrat Party

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 1:08 AM, metou wrote:

    All these stupid guys come and tell us these missle have been in service that we didnt do our research when the story tell you they been in service and are upgraded to a much better system and that what we are talking about

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 1:23 AM, johnnuttall2000 wrote:

    Is these the same Europe that is bad mouthing the USA?

    How much of $22 billion did they pay?

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 1:27 AM, Activista wrote:

    "$22 billion, decades-long project to defend against missile strikes from a nuclear-armed Iran."

    Militarism is bankrupting USA - such a lie - you mean missile strikes from a nuclear-armed Israel? Iran does NOT have nuclear arms ..

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 3:04 AM, JuergenH wrote:

    We've got a really nice looking and performing fleet. Makes me proud.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 3:15 AM, robertson0007 wrote:

    Seems I remember a certain crisis that had something to do with cuba. What if push comes to shove and russia decides the risks are too high to allow her defenses to be knocked down? Do you trust a neighborhood organizer to make the right decisions when the entire worlds life is on the line? Russia may have lost the cold war, but she still has her pride...and several thousand nukes to defend it. I'd be sleeping better at night if almost anyone else were making these decisions.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 4:41 AM, JapanCurmudgeon wrote:

    If it is like recent military weapon systems, likely doesn't perform the way the we were led to believe by the Military Contractors. Actually performing as promised is not a requirement for getting paid.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 5:19 AM, GETRICHSLOW2 wrote:

    Why don't we just tell the whole world where the nuclear subs are located too.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 7:39 AM, 67alfa wrote:

    Oh great, let's stir up some trouble with Russia, that front has been too quiet lately. These days we, the US, seems to just go around TRYING to cause problems.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 7:57 AM, claudius wrote:

    Don't worried for Europe

    The riches predators will go for NATO and the public at large will go for the Russians and the Chinese

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 8:02 AM, claudius wrote:

    Go East young mans from Europe where lay a desirable future going West is going to Sodom and Gomorrah

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 8:04 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    I don't think we should care about the effect on Russia or Europe.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 8:11 AM, jfcollazo wrote:

    Are you kidding fool ? Wake up bozo.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 8:29 AM, joe1961 wrote:

    foolish comment, but that one pic looks like the hull has some damage.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 8:30 AM, joe1961 wrote:

    bring back at least one battle wagon, they sure could cause some damage!

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 8:33 AM, joe1961 wrote:

    If Russian craftsmanship is as good as sochi, we better start attending church on a daily basis.....

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 10:08 AM, emilevid wrote:

    "decades-long project to defend against missile strikes from a nuclear-armed Iran..."

    This is a hilarious attempt at propaganda. Since there is no "nuclear-armed Iran", I guess we need to email Washington and tell them to save the hundreds of millions being spent to protect against something that doesn't exist.

    Wonder is Netanyahu and the Mossad ae members of the MF?

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 10:13 AM, jammerk65 wrote:

    why? to provoke another false flag war?????

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 10:20 AM, AllenElliott wrote:

    Just enmity building towards the end days. It is going to be a dangerous time for everyone on earth, with many deaths. This is before love and righteousness returns

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 11:56 AM, VK wrote:

    Russia does what is best for her interest while we should worry most about our country. However being in a huge budget deficit we should not provide something like this for free. If the EU needs our missile defense shield we must help yet they should pay for it. One must know history as the USSR had fallen apart partially because they helped their "friends" with defense and oil almost for free most of those "friends" left them as soon as their economy could no longer afford it.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 12:34 PM, Rockyvnvmc wrote:

    '...Chairman Alexei Pushkov has called Aegis a "fake" defensive system.';

    This fella must not have been watching, when one of our Aegis Guided Missile Cruisers shot down an old satellite, all the while floating and bobbing around in the ocean, not steady on dry land, like the Chi-Coms.

    'Beware the acquisition, of undue influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military -Industrialist Complex...' ~ Outgoing President D.W. Eisenhower (and former 5 star General).

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 2:03 PM, dallas75216 wrote:

    We need to cut our military budget to 200,000,000,000

    one trillion will just cause trouble

    as Pat Buchanan put it we need a republic and not an Empire

    The American Conservative has done a great job on the many reasons why these warships are antiquated before they are launched.

    The trillions we wasted on the mideast, we could have built a paradise for Israel and the Palestinians at the same time

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 5:20 PM, Chogi wrote:

    I wish only $1 Million of this money..I mean seriously just one Million of this money was given to the Social Security office in NJ so that the 100 people who were waiting in line last Tuesday for basic food and hand outs would have something to take home to their family... Our country has been hijaacked by Zionist Jews and its time for us to stop this ridiculous spending over imagineary threats "Iran nuclear bobm"!!...seriously folks...please take back our country and recall those political prostitutes in congress and senate whose allegance is to the state of Israel.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 6:23 PM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    To all the Russia lovers I recommend that you go live there for awhile. Oh and look up Edward Snowden while there.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 6:28 PM, kduble wrote:

    This makes a lot more sense than land-based ABMs.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 4:28 PM, DJG77 wrote:

    The article failed to address the most obvious question about this new version of the Aegis anti-aircraft defense system specially designed to shoot down ballistic missiles: can it handle China's new supersonic missiles that have been in the news recently?

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