India: Mystery Behind Ballistic Missile Defense Ship USS Decatur Visit to Chennai

by OldSailor on March 21, 2011

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uss_decatur-ddg73_crest Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) ship USS Decatur (DDG 73) of U.S. Navy visited Chennai, India from March 16 to 19, 2011. The U.S. press releases say that the visit was to give the ship’s crew a chance to experience the culture of India and to participate in community service (COMSERV) projects. The warship is commanded by Commander Shanti Sethi, an American of Indian descent, the first female commanding officer of a U.S. Navy ship to visit Chennai.

Some interesting features of USS Decatur (DDG 73) are

  • An Arleigh Burke-Class, guided-missile destroyer (Ballistic Missile Defense ship) home ported at San Diego, California.
  • Departed San Diego in September 2010 on independent deployment. Currently operating under Commander, Destroyer Squadron Seven. Recently switched over to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) from 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
  • The primary focus of deployment is ‘Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)’ (mainly devoted to continuing the development of Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), an evolving system that’s meant to give the U.S. Navy the reliable ability to intercept short and intermediate-range missiles in various phases of flight).
  • BMD capable guided-missile destroyer can carry out assigned BMD missions, even while performing operational tasks such as maritime interdiction operations, battle group air defense during multinational exercises.
  • The AN/SPY-1D phased array radar of Decatur’s Aegis combat system can scan in all directions (360 degrees) simultaneously to detect, track and engage hundreds of air-crafts and missiles while continuously monitoring the sky for new targets.
  • Decatur can also launch in a combination of up to 90 Standard surface-to-air missiles with the MK41 Vertical Launching System (VLS).

Visit of BMD capable USS Decatur to Chennai (eastern coast of India) has taken place just after India has proved ballistic missile defence capability on March 06, 2011 by firing an interceptor missile to intercept and destroy an incoming (enemy) ballistic missile at an altitude of 16 km. Now India is ready to integrate this capability into the air defence assets of the country. The operation was carried out from a launch complex at the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, Orissa, eastern coast of India. This BMD capability is only available with U.S., Russia, France and Israel.

This raises certain logical doubts like

  • prior to visiting Chennai, was USS Decatur present in eastern coast of India to monitor/collect data on India’s BMD capabilities ?
  • for a warship switching over from U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (extends from the Persian Gulf to parts of East Africa) to 7th Fleet area of responsibility (covering  the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans), the nearest Indian ports are in western coast of India (like Mumbai, Goa and Kochi).
  • to visit Chennai, the warship has to go-around Sri Lanka (very rarely U.S. Navy ships visit Chennai).
  • why the press releases regarding the ship’s visit to Chennai do not mention the BMD capability of USS Decatur ?

The visit of BMD capable USS Decatur (DDG 73) to Chennai this month, may be a mere coincidence also.

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