NAPLES, Italy -- The U.S. Navy will participate in a ballistic missile defense demonstration in Europe later this month, according to U.S. 6th Fleet.
Four U.S. ships will join forces from eight other countries for a test to be conducted before month's end under the Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum, a coalition of 10 mostly European nations created in 1999 to coordinate missile defense efforts.
Part of the demonstration is interception of an unarmed ballistic missile fired from a U.K. range in the Outer Hebrides near Scotland, according to 6th Fleet. Participants must also defeat an anti-ship missile fired simultaneously from closer range. The Navy did not give the date or location of the demonstration, and it did not name the ships.
The exercise is meant to show how allies can coordinate against multiple missiles at one time, a concept known as integrated air and missile defense. The tactic relies on highly automated command-and-control systems, such as the Aegis weapons system installed on more than 30 Navy warships. The Navy uses the SM-3 missile to intercept ballistic missile targets.
The U.S. and NATO have been developing ballistic missile defense capabilities in Europe for more than a decade, citing the threat of Iranian short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. The Navy recently stationed its fourth and final Aegis-equipped ship in Rota, Spain, part of the U.S.-developed missile shield known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach. It continues to build ground-based interceptor sites in Romania and Poland.
Russia says the interceptor sites threaten its own missiles, a claim the U.S. disputes.
The upcoming demonstration appears to be the first conducted by the Navy in Europe. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has conducted past ballistic missile defense tests at a range in Hawaii.
The members of the Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum are the U.S., Canada, Australia, Spain, France, the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Italy. Australia will not participate in the upcoming test, according to the Navy.