The USS Donald Cook with its crew of 338 is due to arrive at Rota naval base in the province of Cádiz on Tuesday as the first of four destroyers that will form part of NATO’s missile shield in southern Europe. The Arleigh Burke class vessel left its home port of Norfolk, Virginia on January 31.
However, it will take some time before the 29,000 inhabitants of Rota, 4,200 of whom are out of work, start to see the economic benefits of being the new home of some 1,130 military personnel and 1,800 civilians. The first families are not due to arrive until summer and it will not be until 2015 until the full contingent that will make up NATO’s Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) attachment in Rota is in place.
The USS Ross is due to join the USS Donald Cook in June and the USS Porter and USS Carney will arrive next year. The ships will be equipped with the Aegis combat system and SM-3 missiles. The deployment in Rota is the fourth element of the missile defense shield, which will also include radar and interceptor installations in Poland, Turkey and Romania.
The four destroyers are expected to be based at Rota an initial period of over four years. The deal is also something of a godsend for struggling Spanish public company Navantia, which will be responsible for the maintenance of the four vessels as part of a deal estimated to be worth 200 million euros.
The mayor of Rota, Eva Corrales, emphasized the potential economic benefits of the presence of the US anti-missile shield over the potential risks involved. “It will create jobs, both directly and indirectly,” she said although she acknowledged that no one had put a precise figure on how many. “We all know that they are not making dolls there. The risk has been there since the base was set up and that was 60 years ago.”