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Ryan Robertson

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International

US, NATO anti-missile base in Poland coming online

Dec 12, 2023

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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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The United States and NATO built an air defense system to protect all of Europe from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles launched by Iran. The system is called the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) missile defense system, and the final piece of the network will be operational on Dec. 15.

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The newest facility in the network is at the Redzikowo Air Base, located in northern Poland. Redzikowo is one of two European air bases that will operate the Aegis Ashore Ballistic Missile Defense System. The other base is in Romania.

Aegis is a highly advanced air defense system originally designed to be placed on ships. The Aegis systems in Poland and Romania will be linked to an early warning radar complex in Turkey, a command-and-control center at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and multiple U.S. naval assets throughout the region.

The network can track and intercept several styles of aerial threats, but it was initially designed for short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. A short-range ballistic missile usually has a range less than 600 miles. Medium-range ballistic missiles have a range around 2000 miles.

Unlike cruise missiles, which typically follow a straight, low altitude trajectory, ballistic missiles use rockets to quickly gain altitude and take an arcing path to their target.

Using satellites, the Aegis system can detect the missile launch and then coordinate with radar sites and other Aegis-enabled assets over great distances to launch an interceptor. Intercepting ballistic missiles is described as hitting a big bullet with a small bullet to break it up.

The small bullet in this scenario is a Standard Missile-3, or SM-3. They can be launched from ships at sea or missile batteries on land. SM-3s are extremely fast and use their kinetic energy to take out targets. They are also the only Standard Missile designed to also operate in the vacuum of space.

Back on Earth, the new Redzikowo Air Base is less than 100 miles from the Russian exclave Kaliningrad. Even before the war with Ukraine, Russia was strongly opposed to the idea of having an Aegis system so close to its borders and pointed to the facility’s existence as a reason to distrust NATO and the West. U.S. and NATO officials, however, said the Aegis system at Redzikowo is strictly meant to monitor short- and medium-range threats from Iran.

Besides, it’s not as if Poland doesn’t have plenty of other weaponry for Russia to worry about. Poland’s military buildup began before the war in Ukraine but kicked into high gear after the invasion.

Over the course of the last year, Poland spent billions to buy 48 new PATRIOT missile batteries, 96 Apache attack helicopters, and 116 Abrams tanks just from the United States.

Poland is also buying hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles from South Korea as well.

Not all of those weapons systems are built yet, but the contracts are in place and some were delivered. Once it takes possession of the other systems, Poland will be positioned to have one of the most powerful militaries in all of Europe.

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[Ryan Robertson]

THE UNITED STATES AND NATO BUILT A NETWORK OF AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS TO PROTECT ALL OF EUROPE FROM SHORT AND MEDIUM RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILES LAUNCHED BY IRAN. THE FINAL PIECE OF THAT NETWORK WILL BE OPERATIONAL ON DECEMBER 15TH.

THE FACILITY IS CALLED REDZIKOWO AIR BASE. IT’S LOCATED IN NORTHERN POLAND. REDZIKOWO IS ONE OF TWO EUROPEAN AIR BASES THAT WILL OPERATE THE AEGIS ASHORE MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM. THE OTHER IS IN ROMANIA.

AEGIS IS A HIGHLY ADVANCED AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM ORIGINALLY DESIGNED TO BE PLACED ON SHIPS. THE AEGIS SYSTEMS IN POLAND AND ROMANIA WILL BE LINKED TO AN EARLY WARNING RADAR COMPLEX IN TURKEY, A COMMAND-AND-CONTROL CENTER AT RAMSTEIN AIR BASE IN GERMANY, AND MULTIPLE U.S. NAVAL ASSETS THROUGHOUT THE REGION.

THE NETWORK IS DESIGNED TO TRACK AND INTERCEPT SHORT AND MEDIUM RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILES. A SHORT-RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILE USUALLY HAS A RANGE LESS THAN 600 MILES. MEDIUM-RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILES HAVE A RANGE AROUND 2000 MILES.

UNLIKE CRUISE MISSILES, WHICH TYPICALLY FOLLOW A STRAIGHT, LOW ALTITUDE TRAJECTORY, BALLISTIC MISSILES USE ROCKETS TO QUICKLY GAIN ALTITUDE AND TAKE AN ARCING PATH TO THEIR TARGET. USING SATELLITES, THE AEGIS SYSTEM CAN DETECT THE MISSILE LAUNCH AND THEN COORDINATE WITH RADAR SITES AND OTHER AEGIS-ENABLED ASSETS OVER GREAT DISTANCES TO LAUNCH AN INTERCEPTOR. INTERCEPTING BALLISTIC MISSILES IS DESCRIBED AS HITTING A BIG BULLET WITH A SMALL BULLET TO BREAK IT UP.

THE SMALL BULLET IN THIS SCENARIO IS AN SM, OR STANDARD MISSILE THREE. SM-3s CAN BE LAUNCHED FROM SHIPS AT SEA OR MISSILE BATTERIES ON LAND. SM-3s ARE EXTREMELY FAST AND USE THEIR KINETIC ENERGY TO TAKE OUT TARGETS. THEY’RE ALSO THE ONLY STANDARD MISSILE DESIGNED TO OPERATE IN THE VACUUM OF SPACE.

BACK ON EARTH, THE NEW REDZIKOWO AIR BASE IS LESS THAN 100 MILES FROM THE RUSSIAN EXCLAVE KALININGRAD. EVEN BEFORE THE WAR WITH UKRAINE, RUSSIA WAS STRONGLY OPPOSED TO THE IDEA OF HAVING AN AEGIS SYSTEM SO CLOSE TO ITS BORDERS AND POINTED TO THE FACILITY’S EXISTENCE AS A REASON TO DISTRUST NATO AND THE WEST. U.S. AND NATO OFFICIALS, HOWEVER, SAY THE AEGIS SYSTEM AT REDZIKOWO IS STRICTLY MEANT TO MONITOR SHORT AND MEDIUM RANGE THREATS FROM IRAN.

BESIDES, IT’S NOT AS IF POLAND DOESN’T HAVE PLENTY OF OTHER WEAPONRY FOR RUSSIA TO WORRY ABOUT. POLAND’S MILITARY BUILDUP BEGAN BEFORE THE WAR IN UKRAINE BUT KICKED INTO HIGH GEAR AFTER THE INVASION.

OVER THE COURSE OF THE LAST YEAR, POLAND SPENT BILLIONS TO BUY 48 NEW PATRIOT MISSILE BATTERIES, 96 APACHE ATTACK HELICOPTERS, AND 116 ABRAMS TANKS. THAT’S JUST FROM THE UNITED STATES. POLAND IS ALSO BUYING HUNDREDS OF TANKS AND ARMORED VEHICLES FROM SOUTH KOREA AS WELL.

NOT ALL OF THOSE WEAPONS SYSTEMS ARE BUILT YET, BUT THE CONTRACTS ARE IN PLACE AND SOME WERE DELIVERED. ONCE IT TAKES POSSESSION OF THE OTHER SYSTEMS, POLAND WILL BE POSITIONED TO HAVE ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL MILITARIES IN ALL OF EUROPE.