A US ballistic missile defense system in Deveselu, Romania, is now active. The “Aegis Ashore” site—meant to protect against threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area—was declared online during a ceremony Thursday, according to a May 12 NATO release. It joins a ballistic missile tracking radar in Turkey, four US Aegis-equipped ships homeported in Rota, Spain, and a command and control center in Germany as part of the larger NATO defense system, according to May 11 Pentagon release. Construction on a second interceptor site in Poland—expected to be operational in 2018—is set to begin Friday. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Frank Rose said Russia has raised concerns that the system poses a threat to its strategic nuclear deterrent, but that “nothing could be further from the truth,” according to the Pentagon release. During Thursday’s ceremony, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said Russia was never brought up in planning conversations. “It was always about ballistic missiles coming out of the Middle Eastern region toward NATO allies and US forces in Europe,” he said. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the system in Romania and the one being built in Poland will not undermine or weaken Russia’s strategic deterrent as the interceptors are not capable of taking down Russia’s ICBMs.
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.