Why U.S. Navy Destroyers in Spain Will Send a Message to Russia

July 4, 2022 Topic: U.S. Navy Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: U.S. NavyNavy DestroyersDDG 51SpainNATO

Why U.S. Navy Destroyers in Spain Will Send a Message to Russia

The ability to forward project power is fundamental to the U.S. Navy’s global deterrence posture.

President Biden is adding a substantial new measure of naval firepower to the European continent and the Mediterranean Sea by increasing the number of U.S. Navy destroyers based in Rota, Spain, from four to six.

Two additional Navy destroyers will not only bring a massive increase in available firepower but will also greatly expand the range and reach of European-based warships for the service. For instance, a quick look at a map shows that Rota, Spain, is roughly 1,900 miles from Istanbul and the Dardanelles passageway, which crosses from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea. By extension, the Black Sea entrance in Istanbul is approximately 380 miles from Odessa, Ukraine, and is even closer to Crimea.

The proximity suggests that forward-positioned destroyers could be capable of entering the Black Sea, perhaps by using allied ports in the Mediterranean or being resupplied at sea. The ability to project power is fundamental to the U.S. Navy’s global deterrence posture, and it makes sense that the Mediterranean and the Black Sea would now command a much greater operational importance to contain further Russian aggression. 

The Navy is also deeply committed to ensuring the free flow of commercial traffic through strategic waterways and critical parts of the globe. The Black Sea and the Mediterranean are now at much greater risk, given Russia’s military operations against Ukraine. In the early days of the war, Russian naval forces launched amphibious attacks against the Ukrainian coastline and are now using ships to form a blockade. As a result of the blockade, Ukraine is not able to export its grain across the globe.

However, should the Navy have an increased ability to reach the Black Sea, Russia might be less inclined to be as aggressive against Ukraine in the area. The move also makes sense given that the U.S. Navy is massively upgrading its fleet of destroyers by acquiring as many as ten new DDG 51 Flight III destroyers. These ships, now at various stages of completion, bring the paradigm-changing SPY 6 radar system, which is much more sensitive and discriminating than the radars they are replacing. The Flight III radars can detect threats one-half the size at twice the distance as the previous system, making air and missile defense much more robust and effective. 

Perhaps of greatest significance, U.S. Navy destroyers bring the possibility of moving much more firepower into strategically vital areas like the Black Sea. For instance, the Navy’s Tomahawk cruise missiles can attack at ranges of up to 900 miles, a scenario that makes the Russian coastline and parts of mainland Russia extremely vulnerable to attack from the Black Sea.

Kris Osborn serves as Defense Editor for The National Interest. He previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also been an anchor and on-air military analyst for national TV networks.

Image: Reuters.