Why Has America Doubled Its Fleet of Missile-Destroying Warships in Europe?

The guided missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71), making haste to cross the Atlantic and begin building a missile shield over Europe. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Russian President Putin is not going to like this news one bit.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Navy revealed that it has dispatched a second guided missile destroyer to Europe. Equipped with its experimental new ballistic missile defense, or BMD, system, the USS Ross (DDG 71) will take up a position in Rota, Spain, and begin building a "missile shield" over Europe.

This is actually the second BMD-equipped destroyer that the U.S. has sent to Europe. The Ross's sister ship, the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) transited the Atlantic in February. (If Ross makes as good time as Cook did on her voyage a few months ago, she could be in port in Spain around June 12). The U.S. plans to double the size of its BMD fleet in Europe yet again, dispatching the destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Carney (DDG 64) over the next 18 months.

USS Ross, on station off the Greek coast. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

What's up with all the warships?
Why is America sending all of these warships to Europe? They're part of a monumental effort to protect American allies from the threat of ballistic missile attack from our foes. To date, the U.S. Government Accounting Office estimates that we have invested $98 billion in developing the technology to protect the U.S. and its allies from ballistic missile strikes. The GAO expects that building up a ship-based BMD capability (represented by the four destroyers already noted) will cost "several billion dollars over the elements' lifetime).

Adding land-based missile batteries in Romania and Poland, to bolster the European missile shield further, will cost additional billions. When you add it all up, the Heritage Foundation estimates that we are spending about $8 billion per year on missile defense programs such as European BMD -- for which Congress authorized $2.1 billion in funding in 2014 alone.

The biggest beneficiaries of this legislative largesse to date have been Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT  ) , Raytheon (NYSE: RTN  ) , and Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) , who as of last year had received contracts worth $1.4 billion, $710 million, and $325 million, respectively. Raytheon in particular is winning additional contracts -- worth upwards of $3.5 billion at last count -- to manufacture SM-3 IB and IIA interceptor missiles to outfit the BMD systems.

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

And who are these anti-missile missiles aimed at?
U.S. Government statements make it clear that the original idea behind developing the BMD system was to counter a perceived threat to Europe from the Iranian nuclear weapons program. But already, the system is proving to have fringe benefits for U.S. foreign policy.

In April, following Russia's invasion and annexation of Crimea, the U.S. dispatched the USS Donald Cook to the Black Sea to "show the flag" in a region of heightened instability. Russia reacted immediately.

Within hours of the Cook entering the Black Sea, the warship got buzzed at close range by a pair of Russian Su-24 "Fencer" fighter-bombers. Russian government news outlet RT made no bones about what the fighters were up to, either. Reporting on the incident, RT noted that one Fencer made as many as a dozen "simulated low-altitude attacks on the US destroyer."

Notably, the U.S. had been rotating ships in and out of the Black Sea ever since Russia invaded Crimea. First was the guided missile frigate USS Taylor, then the destroyer USS Truxtun, then the Cook, then the Taylor again, and most recently, the guided missile cruiser USS Vella headed east to the Black Sea.

But out of all these warships, Russia picked the one outfitted with ballistic missile defense, to harass.

The upshot for investors
As Russian Duma Deputy Mikhail Nenashev told RIA Novosti in April, the Cook's visit to the Black Sea that month demonstrates that despite Russia's objections, the U.S. has "not abandoned their intention to deploy sea-based ABM defense systems."

That's bad news for Russia, which would much prefer a free hand to act as and where it wills. But for investors who see billions of dollars' worth of opportunity in America's efforts to install a ballistic missile defense shield over Europe, it tells us that installation of the BMD system is still going full-steam ahead.

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Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (23)

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 June 08, 2014, at 5:25 PM, dpk65 wrote:

    How about some of the USA Allies contributing to the cost of maintaining this defense????

  • Report this Comment On June 08, 2014, at 7:48 PM, tommy1954 wrote:

    if we haven't been sold out in highest command positions,it not healthly to buzz a ship with muti weapons system,can bring hostile anti ship missle and at the same time launch ship to target missle that come out of the launch tube at 3 time the SoS.and no doubt other interest usa has in the close area jet would not survive if ship was damaged or sunk.

  • Report this Comment On June 08, 2014, at 8:36 PM, mbee1 wrote:

    More nonsense war saber rattling by Obama for no reason other than contributions from the people in the business of making machines to kill people. This ship and its sister ship are useless if Russia actually went to war. One ICBM per ship and sunk. All these ships do is spend money the USA does not have so Obama can pretend he is more then an idiot. The US and the EU started this crisis by funding an armed coup which stole the Ukraine from its elected president, than the coup plotters got a promise of 31 billion most of which will wind out in the pockets of the Ukraine mafia and since it is a loan the Ukrainian people will pay some of it back with the taxpayers in the US paying back the rest all so NATO could play war games in the Ukraine. Insane is the only way to discribe Obama and Merkel who engineered this money grab.

  • Report this Comment On June 08, 2014, at 9:08 PM, eeyaw88 wrote:

    The US can't even find a 777 MH370 do you thing the anti missiles will work?

  • Report this Comment On June 08, 2014, at 9:21 PM, peterwolf wrote:

    'Doubled' !! I just love these misleading headlines. We've gone from one ship to two. Wow !! Big deal !! But by saying 'doubled' it makes it sound like we've gone from a dozen to TWO dozen. This is just more 'soft ball' journalism to make the Obama Administration look tougher than it really is.

  • Report this Comment On June 08, 2014, at 11:41 PM, caimen wrote:

    if fools would go back to their history books and you would "know" what is about to happen but seems like everyone is dumb down by pathetic msm propaganda machine! my question is, who will Germany side with when it really gets nasty?

  • Report this Comment On June 09, 2014, at 1:52 AM, jaredw wrote:

    well its not going to get nasty.these economies are all intertwined. as stated above who cares about if Russia grabs a few small territories. putin is not a stupid man. im saying, we should ally ourselves with Russia, Germany, and china. not nato. the usa does not need to defend Europe. who cares about them. also I would say that Germany deserves all the territory she lost to Poland at the end of ww ii. Poland is trying to cause world war three by insisting on tons of us troops in Poland. time for Poland to defend itself.

  • Report this Comment On June 09, 2014, at 4:30 AM, ndungaa wrote:

    Make peace,war is bad! I wonder why is America so much into wars and boastful of military equipment yet they could not prevent the 9/11.

  • Report this Comment On June 09, 2014, at 4:43 AM, ndungaa wrote:

    America has just become too antagonistic and provocative. I see it's miscalculation and down fall !

  • Report this Comment On June 09, 2014, at 6:55 PM, mohsen wrote:

    Both Sides belong to the same outfit and the rest is just a Roman Circus.

  • Report this Comment On June 09, 2014, at 7:31 PM, BillFromNY wrote:

    Forty expensive years of cold war. Now we want to start it again because Russia is showing signs of coveting some of its neighbors. Are we going to revive the domino theory? First the Ukraine, then Poland, then Germany. Let Europe defend Europeans. If the US decided to annex lower California, (for a very good reason, I'm sure) how would we like a small Russian fleet off San Diego?

    And if the people out there think that these 2-4 destroyers are going to protect them from ballistic attack, lots of luck. The system hasn't even been tested under realistic circumstances ("a bullet hitting a bullet").

    Good thing we still are protected by the huge oceans on the east and west. What's that? North Korean missiles can strike the northwest US?

    I think some day I'm going to be real glad that I was born and lived the great majority of my life in the relatively peaceful and prosperous 2nd half of the 20th century. (Unless you were unlucky enough or stupid enough to get sent to Vietnam when all you needed was a college enrollment to be exempt.) The oceans no longer protect us and the generals and politicians are as stupid as ever.

  • Report this Comment On June 10, 2014, at 7:16 AM, Goalkeeper wrote:

    What is best for the USA is a strong defense. Being defensive never hurt another country. Russia and others who do not like the BMD technology object because it reduces the effectiveness of their offense. PERIOD!

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Rich Smith

As a defense writer for The Motley Fool, I focus on defense and aerospace stocks. My job? Every day of the week, I'm monitoring the news, figuring out the winners and losers, and tracking down the promising companies for you to invest in. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook for the most important developments in defense & aerospace, and other great stories.

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