Palma.—The U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer, USS Porter, currently moored in Palma, will be playing a key role in U.S. President Barack Obama´s plan for a ballistic missile shield programme.

The Porter will be based at the combined U.S./Spanish Navy base at Rota near Cadiz along with three other vessels and will effectively form the defence shield in southern Europe.

The state-of-the-art destroyer will be fitted with the Aegis radar and weapons system giving the vessel the ability to shoot-down ballistic missiles inflight. The weapons overhaul is expeced to be carried out once the Porter completes its Mediterranean deployment. At present it forms part of a U.S. Navy Task Group led by the veteran nuclear aircraft carrier Enterprise.

Former Spanish Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero gave the go-ahead for the vessels to be based in Spain after lengthy negotiations with the Pentagon and the Obama administration. Russia, which still maintains one of the biggest stockpiles of nuclear weapons after the U.S., has voiced its opposition to the plan.

However, the Obama administration brushed the criticism aside saying that the missile shield plan was vital for the security of the U.S. and other NATO countries.

The Porter is one of the Arleigh Burke destroyers which are known as stealth vessels because they are difficult to detect on radar. Already it has a powerful array of weapons including the Tomahawk cruise missile system which was used successfully b y the Royal Navy and the United States Air Force and Navy during the recent Libya crisis.

The Arleigh Burke destroyers form the backbone of the United States Navy escort fleet serving across the globe.
Vessels of the United States Navy have become more frequent visitors to the Port of Palma over recent months. This has been welcomed by the local business community.

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