The European Phased Adaptive Approach at a Glance

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

On September 17, 2009, President Obama announced that the United States would pursue a “Phased Adaptive Approach” to missile defense in Europe. This approach is centered on the Aegis missile defense system and began deployment in three main phases starting in 2011 and lasting until perhaps 2022. A fourth phase, to have been fielded in the 2020 timeframe, was canceled in March 2013; instead, an additional interceptors were to be added in Fort Greeley to bring the total to 44 as of 2018.

The European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) is the U.S. contribution to NATO’s missile defense system and is designed to protect Europe against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles launched from Iran. The approach consists of sea- and land-based configurations of the Aegis missile defense system, the centerpiece of which is the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor. A new, more capable version of the SM-3 is being developed, and the system will be increasingly integrated with an evolving network of land and space-based sensors. According to the Obama administration, the plan uses technology that is “proven, cost-effective, and adaptable to an evolving security environment.”

The EPAA broke with the plans pursued by the Bush administration. The Bush plans had called for deployment of a ground-based missile defense (GMD) system in Europe, similar to the system deployed in California and Alaska. This included bilateral agreements to station ground-based interceptors in Poland and a radar installation in the Czech Republic.

As part of the EPAA, Turkey is hosting a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) radar at Kürecik; Romania is hosting an Aegis Ashore site at Deveselu Air Base; Germany is hosting a command center at Ramstein Air Base; and Poland will host another Aegis Ashore site at the Redzikowo military base.

Phase 1—consisting of the radar in Turkey, command center in Germany, and deployed ballistic missile defense (BMD)-capable Aegis ships by the U.S. Navy—has been operational since the end of 2011. Starting in 2014, Spain hosted four of those ships (equipped with the SPY-1 radar) at its naval base in Rota.

In May 2016, NATO declared operational the Romania Aegis Ashore site at Deveselu as part of EPAA Phase 2. At the July 2016 Warsaw summit, NATO declared the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the NATO ballistic missile defense system.

Phase 3 will see the deployment of the Poland Aegis Ashore system perhaps by the end of 2022 at the earliest instead of the original 2018 target. According to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the Aegis system deployment was initially delayed until FY2020 due to contractor performance issues. According to a June 2019 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the construction in Poland has “failed to meet schedule milestones from the start of the contract.” Deployment was delayed another two years due to poor weather and a shortage of necessary resources, according to MDA’s former director, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves. According to an April 2021 GAO report, the Missile Defense Agency attributes $79 million in costs increases due to the delays.

The following chart provides an overview of the different EPAA phases. It contains information on the planned scheduling of the phases, the deployment platforms, the missile upgrades, and the sensors which will be integrated into the system.


Phase 1, Deployed


Missile Platforms and Numbers

      • In March 2011, the USS Monterey, one of the BMD-capable Aegis ships, was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea. This represented "the first sustained deployment of a ballistic missile defense-capable ship" in support of the EPAA.
      • In FY2012, 113 SM-3 Block IA and 16 SM-3 Block IB interceptors were delivered and 29 Aegis-equipped BMD ships deployed.
      • Starting in 2014, Spain has hosted four BMD-capable Aegis ships at its naval base in Rota.



        SM-3 Variant and Numbers

        • SM-3 Block IA interceptors have a velocity of 3 km/second and are designed to engage short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in the mid-course phase.
        • Block IA has a single-color seeker, a 21-inch-diameter booster, and a 13.5 inch diameter along the rest of the interceptor.
        • Block IA costs between $9 and 10 million per unit.
        • Some SM-2 Block IVs (the SM-3 predecessor) will also be retained for use against missiles in the terminal phase.
        • All of the SM-3 variants fire from the Mk 41 vertical launching system.





        Sensors and Combat System

        • Initially, the system will use sea-based sensors mounted on the Aegis ships, as well as a forward-based mobile X-band radar on land. The first EPAA radar—the Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance system (AN/TPY-2) manufactured by Raytheon and part of THAAD—was deployed in Turkey in late 2011.
        • In May 2018, the GAO reported a total of seven AN/TPY-2 radars are deployed to support regional defense. Four radars are deployed to Pacific Command (two for use in forward-based mode and two for use in terminal mode), two to European Command, and one to Central Command.
        • The sensors and interceptors will be brought together under the Aegis combat system. This is a system capable of tracking 100 simultaneous targets. Phase 1 will primarily use Aegis version 3.6.1 software.
        • According to the Defense Science Board, the current Aegis shipboard radar is inadequate to support the EPAA mission, and the future Navy ship-based Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) is needed.
        • U.S. and European BMD systems are integrated for battle management at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.



        Phase 2, Operational as of May 2, 2016





        Missile Platforms and Numbers

            • Phase 2 includes interceptors on land in the first "Aegis-Ashore" deployment in Deveselu, Romania. Interceptors have also been mounted on an increasing number of Aegis BMD ships in support of global missions.
            • According to the Defense Department’s FY2022 budget submission, the United States will have 48 BMD-capable Aegis ships by the end of FY2022, rising to 65 by the end of FY2025.
            • The first Aegis Ashore site in Deveselu, Romania, (which completed an update in August 2019) is equipped with one land-based Aegis SPY-1 radar and 12 missile tubes for 24 SM-3 Block IB interceptor missiles.
            • Phase 2 achieved a Technical Capability Declaration (TCD) in December 2015, which indicates that the system will operate as designed.
            • In May 2016, NATO declared the Romania Aegis Ashore site operational. NATO declared the IOC of the system in July 2016.



              SM-3 Variant and Numbers

              • Phase 2 included the SM-3 Block IB variant, also with a velocity of 3 km/sec. This interceptor differs from the Block IA in its "seeker" technology, consisting of a two-color seeker, or "kill warhead," and improved optics.
              • The Defense Department’s FY2022 budget requested funding for procuring 40 SM-3 Block IB missiles for deployment in Romania and Poland, as well as on some Aegis ships. The previous year, the goal was to reach 395 SM-3 Block IB missiles by the end of FY 2021. 
              • The Block IB is estimated to cost between $12 and 15 million per interceptor.

              Sensors and Combat Systems

              • In Phase 2, sensors were integrated with updated versions of the Aegis combat system. BMD ships carry versions 3.6.1, 4.0.1, and 5.0. 


              Phase 3, Planned Deployment Date: ~2022


              Missile Platforms and Numbers

                • Phase 3 will see the introduction of the second Aegis Ashore site in Poland with another SPY-1 radar and 24 SM-3 missiles. This will supplement the deployments at sea and in Romania and will extend coverage over a greater percentage of Europe. Originally scheduled to be completed by 2018, the Poland site will not become operational until at least 2022.






                SM-3 Variant and Numbers

                • Phase 3 will include the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor. This new variant will be faster than Block I with a velocity of 4.5 km/second and will have a 21-inch diameter for the whole length of the missile, which allows for more fuel and hence a more powerful motor. This will give the system an “enhanced” capability to address intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and potentially a “limited” capability to address intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
                • The first intercept test of the new SM-3 Block IIA interceptor occurred in February 2017 and was successful. However, the second and third intercept tests of the missile in June 2017 and January 2018 failed to destroy their targets. There were two more tests before the end of 2018 on Oct. 26 and Dec. 11, both successful, with the December test particularly notable for being the first successful intercept of an IRBM target and using the ability to "engage on remote" using a forward-based sensor. In November 2020, an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor launched from an Aegis BMD-equipped destroyer successfully intercepted an ICBM-class target.
                • MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said in June 2020 that the SM-3 Block IIA has completed development and is ready for production.
                • The Defense Department’s FY2022 budget requested funding for procuring 8 SM-3 Block IIA missiles for deployment in Romania and Poland, as well as on some Aegis ships. The previous year, the goal was to have 60 SM-3 Block IIA missiles procured by the end of FY 2021. 




                Sensors and Combat Systems

                  • In Phase 3, the United States intended to deploy two new tracking systems to support early interception: the airborne infrared (ABIR) sensor platform, a system designed to track significantly larger numbers of incoming missiles, and the Precision Tracking and Surveillance System (PTSS), which would include as many as 12 satellites. Both the ABIR program and PTSS, however, were written out of the FY2013 and FY2014 budgets, respectively.
                  • Aegis BMD ships are scheduled to be equipped with version 5.1 of the combat system software in this timeframe.
                  • Phase 3 of the EPAA is scheduled to include an “engage on remote” capability for Aegis interceptors to conduct operations based entirely on off-board radar information, thereby expanding the range of the Aegis systems. In this capability, the interceptor can be both launched and guided to intercept by sensors remote from the launching ship.


                    Phase 4, Cancelled March 2013

                    Missile Platforms and Numbers

                      • The platforms supporting the SM-3 interceptors under Phase 4 would have remained the same as those deployed under Phase 3: sea-based platforms and the Aegis Ashore deployments in Romania and Poland.



                      SM-3 Variant and Numbers

                      • The SM-3 Block IIB interceptor missiles, which were only in a conceptual stage, were scheduled to be deployed in order to combat medium- and intermediate-range missiles and ICBMs. These missiles were planned to have an improved seeker and a higher performance booster, with a velocity of 5-5.5 km/second.
                      • According to the Defense Science Board, the SM-3 Block IIB's planned mission to intercept targets prior to the deployment of multiple warheads or penetration aids—known as "early intercept"—requires "Herculean effort and is not realistically achievable, even under the most optimistic set of deployment, sensor capability, and missile technology assumptions.”

                      Sensors and Combat Systems

                      • According to the Missile Defense Advocacy Agency, space-based sensors would have played a role in Phase 4.