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Thursday, July 10, 2008

US Navy conducted major exercise while Mullen was in Israel

The United States Navy conducted a major exercise to test the communications network for its Aegis anti-missile system over the weekend of June 28. At the time, Admiral Michael Mullen (pictured), the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Israel.
The communications test, revealed in the Navy Times, involved ships deployed in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.

During his visit to Israel, [Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. Gary] Roughead told The Jerusalem Post that he had discussed missile defense systems and particularly the Aegis system with his Israeli counterparts. Defense officials have said that in the event of a conflict with Teheran it was possible that the US would deploy an Aegis system off Israel's coast to provide another layer of defense against Iranian ballistic missiles.

By 2009, the US Navy will have 18 cruisers and destroyers with operational Aegis systems that are capable of tracking ballistic missiles and intercepting them with ship-launched SM-3 missiles.

"I believe that the proliferation of ballistic missiles is something that will continue to occur [and] I believe that ballistic missiles in the future will become weapons of intimidation and blackmail," Roughead said at the time.

According to the Navy Times, the exercise involved the USN Benfold destroyer in the Persian Gulf and the USN Russell destroyer in the Mediterranean.
The Navy Times, which called the exercise "unprecedented," said that it took place between June 28 and July 2.
On July 2, Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, the 5th Fleet commander based in Bahrain, told a conference of naval leaders in the Persian Gulf that maritime security in the area remains an “essential condition” to global stability.

While not speaking specifically about the BMD exercise, he said naval operations in the area reflect the high stakes involved.

“Conducting these operations in and around the Arabian Gulf sends a signal of security within the region that is commensurate with the area’s global importance,” he said.

The BMD exercise, which took place from June 28 through July 2, involved the destroyer Benfold operating in the Persian Gulf and the destroyer Russell operating in the eastern Mediterranean.

According to 6th Fleet in Naples, Italy, the exercise has been “long scheduled,” with planning initiated last year.


The recent exercise in the Middle East was described as a communications exercise to test the rapid exchange of information between the two fleets.

“During the exercise, the ships will work with one another in detecting, tracking, sharing information and engaging a simulated ballistic missile by sharing data via a number of paths,” according to information from 6th Fleet.

It’s not known whether the scenario involved such a simulated missile being shot from a Persian Gulf nation such as Iran toward a Mediterranean nation such as Israel, or vice versa.

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow for foreign policy and a military expert at the Brookings Institution, said there may be symbolic values to staging such an exercise in the region, given the antagonism among Iran, Israel and the U.S. But more importantly, the exercise will test the military communications both ashore and afloat throughout the region.

“You want to learn how you coordinate the data in real time,” he said.

Bob Work, a senior defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the tests show the fleet continues to refine its ballistic missile defense tactics.

“The great value of Navy Aegis/BMD ships is that they can position themselves anywhere in the world along likely missile threat axes to maximize the probability of a successful interception,” he said. “Exercises in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf demonstrate that these ships are equally capable operating off of North Korea, near Iran, or near any other potential adversary.”
Someone decided they wanted Iran to know about this, and one has to assume that Iran knew about it before yesterday's exercise. The Bush administration seems to be doing everything possible to deter Iran from going down the path of nuclear weapons, but at the end of the day, this administration 'gets it.' I'm not sure the next one will.


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