The destoryer Carney, one of four ships that will be forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, in the coming years, gets buffeted by waves in the Mediterranean during deployment in 2010. U.S. European Command chief Adm. James Stavridis told the House Armed Services Committee that the ships will support a broad range of missions in Europe and Africa in addition to their planned focus on NATO ballistic-missile defense. (MAC Anthony J. Sganga / Navy)
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The four destroyers being forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, over the next few years will support a broad range of missions in Europe and Africa in addition to their planned focus on NATO ballistic-missile defense, U.S. European Command chief Adm. James Stavridis told the House Armed Services Committee on March 1.
"These are marvelous ships … multimission-capable … wonderful to partner with other nations. So they will be a very robust addition to our European capabilities set," Stavridis said. In addition, he said, the four would also "very much be part" of U.S. Africa Command missions.
"These are ships you'll see off the Gulf of Guinea, they'll be operating in counterpiracy on the east coast of Africa, they'll be in the Mediterranean, they'll be up north. … So I think their homeporting overseas reflects the ongoing engagement — not only in Europe but also in the African theater, as well," Stavridis said. "And I think it's a very powerful statement of that."
That means the ships could find themselves sailing to points around the entire continent, from the Indian Ocean to South Africa and up the continent's west coast, taking part in maritime interdiction and humanitarian operations, peacekeeping training and counterpiracy operations — not to mention exercises and operations in the Mediterranean and in the Black Sea, where U.S. ballistic-missile defense-capable Aegis ships are slated to augment land-based missile interceptors and radars being built in Romania, Poland and Turkey.
Iran, which is believed to be developing nuclear weapons and missiles that can strike anywhere in Europe, is the focus of the ballistic-missile defense effort. Stavridis said NATO's goal is to declare an interim ballistic-missile defense capability by May.
The Arleigh Burke-class ships — Ross, Donald Cook, Porter and Carney — will fall under 6th Fleet, which reports to both Stavridis and Africa Command chief Army Gen. Carter Ham, Stavridis said. Ross and Donald Cook will arrive during fiscal 2014, followed a year later by Porter and Carney. The first three are homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., while Carney's home is Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
The moves will add about 1,300 sailors and 2,100 family members to the 3,000 sailors and family members already at Naval Station Rota.
The questions about the Rota plans were posed by Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., who didn't appear too concerned about the vast naval complex near his district losing three ships. Perhaps that's because the Navy announced it was indefinitely suspending plans to move a carrier to Mayport, a decision that elicited sighs of relief in Virginia — one carrier has a far greater economic impact than three destroyers.
Mayport also will lose a destroyer to Rota, but it will gain a three-ship amphibious ready group, with about 2,000 sailors and their families. The Navy hasn't yet said which home port will lose those ships.