The United States deployed one of its most advanced ballistic missile defense warships to Japan on Monday as part of the Obama administration’s rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.
The USS Benfold berthed at Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, where it joins seven other destroyers. Its missions may include guarding the U.S. and its allies against ballistic missiles launched by North Korea, a senior officer said on condition of anonymity.
The destroyer has 90 vertical-launch missile tubes and one of the world’s most advanced rocket-tracking capabilities, the Aegis Baseline 9 system.
“Today is significant because we add another destroyer, one of the United States’ most capable destroyers, to the forces in this region,” said Commodore Christopher Sweeney of the U.S. Seventh Fleet.
He said it strengthens the U.S.-Japan relationship and adds to the security of the region. He said potential opponents cannot match such a sophisticated defensive system.
“We have more ability to intercept than they have more missiles,” he said.
The deployment comprises part of the ongoing U.S. rebalance toward Asia, said a spokesman for the U.S. Navy in Japan.
“As evidenced by Benfold’s arrival today, and (USS) Ronald Reagan a couple of weeks ago, we are putting the most advanced ships and aircraft out here,” said Cmdr. Ronald Flanders, spokesman for Naval Forces Japan. “We’re going to have 60 percent of our navy in the Pacific.”
Launched in 1994, the Benfold, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, has recently been refitted with cutting-edge weaponry. In addition to its ballistic missile defense system, it has torpedoes, anti-ship missiles and video-targeted cannons controlled by joysticks from the bridge.