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Ballistic Missile Defence

The proliferation or spread of ballistic missiles is an increasing threat to Allied populations, territory and deployed forces. Many countries have ballistic missiles or are trying to develop or acquire them. Equipped with a Weapon of Mass Destruction, a nuclear, biological or chemical warhead, a Ballistic Missile is one of the most dangerous threats to the Alliance, both from a political and military perspective. In 2010 Allies decided to develop a NATO Ballistic Missile Defence capability as a purely defensive long-term investment to address a long-term security threat.

NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defence capability is a system of sensors, missile launchers and command and control facilities. It combines command and control assets commonly funded by all Allies and voluntary contributions provided by individual Allies. Turkey is hosting a radar system at Kürecik, provided by the United States; Romania is hosting an Aegis Ashore site (top photo), a missile launcher system that allows the coverage of large areas, at Deveselu Air Base. A second Aegis Ashore site will be hosted by Poland at Redzikowo military base. Additionally Spain is hosting four Ballistic Missile Defence-capable Aegis ships at its naval base in Rota. These assets are national contributions and are integral parts of the NATO Ballistic Missile Defence capability.

Several Allies currently offer further surface-based air and missile defence systems, such as PATRIOT or SAMP/T, or complementary ships as a force protection of other Ballistic Missile Defence assets. Other Allies are also developing or acquiring assets that could eventually be made available for NATO Ballistic Missile Defence.

The tactical responsibility for NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defence lies at Allied Air Command and is executed by a 24 hour watch team. 

During the NATO Summit in Warsaw in 2016, the Allies declared Initial Operational Capability of this system which offers the capability to defend Alliance populations, territory, and forces across NATO’s southern boundary against a potential ballistic missile attack from outside the Euro Atlantic Area. The alliance continues to expand its relationships and collective capabilities in the area of Ballistic Missile Defence in order to meet new challenges responding to the increases in missile proliferation and external threats evident in today’s geo-political environment.

How does a ballistic missile intercept work in practical terms? 

If a hostile ballistic missile was launched against a NATO nation, there would be only minutes to react. NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defence system uses networked sensors and interceptor missiles that provide a defence for an area under threat. Sensors calculate the threat missile’s trajectory and evaluate the threat. Systems then provide valuable cueing and tactical information for operators to determine the best option for a successful interception. At the same time sensors also provide warnings on the predicted impact areas to alert national authorities, allowing them to initiate passive defencive measures. Once the threat is pinpointed, the best suited interceptor launches from sea or from land to neutralize the attacking missile, protecting NATO populations, territories and Forces.

Ballistic Missile Defence explained

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