Next month the Navy will establish a new command with missile defense in mind.
Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, announced the coming formation of the Navy Air and Missile Defense Command during a speech before a business group Wednesday night in Northern Virginia.
""We'll formally stand it up in April, but it will be the place where the Navy comes to bring together the thinking, the ideas, the concept, the intellectual effort for our air and ballistic missile initiatives, efforts and programs so that we can stay in the forefront of this important mission area,"" Roughead told the group.
He said it will be based in Dahlgren, Va. "" where the Navy has an existing facility "" though further details about the new command were not readily available Wednesday night.
Tensions over ballistic missile launches have risen in recent weeks because of news that North Korea was preparing a test launch. The saber-rattling was taken seriously enough to prompt a comment from Adm. Timothy Keating, head of U.S. Pacific Command, who was quoted saying, ""If a missile leaves the launch pad, we'll be prepared to respond upon direction of the president. ""
The Navy has had several successful ship-launched intercepts of test ballistic missiles. As of November, Navy shot 19 interceptor missiles at speeding targets and was successful in 16 attempts.
The Nov. 1 test was the first ""fleet operational firing. "" After two target missiles were fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, an SM-3 fired from the destroyer Paul Hamilton directly hit the first. Another ship, the destroyer Hopper, failed to intercept the second target missile.
The Missile Defense Agency, which oversees the military's BMD programs, has also been testing land-based interceptor systems.
The Navy's Aegis BMD program is directed by Rear Adm. Brad Hicks.
By upgrading existing Aegis radar systems and training ship crews to intercept airborne ballistic missiles, the Navy has been bolstering the usefulness of its older Flight I/II Burke-class destroyers, as well as some of its Ticonderoga-class cruisers.
There are six BMD-capable ships homeported in Pearl Harbor: the cruiser Lake Erie and destroyers Russell, Paul Hamilton, O'Kane and Hopper. The BMD-capable cruiser Port Royal ran aground Feb. 5, suffering extensive damage that will cost millions to repair.
Five are based out of Yokosuka, Japan: the cruiser Shiloh and destroyers John S. McCain, Stethem, Fitzgerald and Curtis Wilbur. Homeported in San Diego are the destroyers Decatur, Milius, Benfold, Higgins and John Paul Jones. Destroyers Stout and Ramage are the two Norfolk-based BMD-capable warships.
Roughead spoke at a meeting of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council. Also scheduled to speak was Rep. Robert Wittman, R-Va. , following the showing of a film on ballistic missile defense.