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European delegates visit Vandenberg, view missile facilities

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- NATO delegates board an Air Force KC-135 on their way to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., after finishing a tour of Vandenberg and learning about missile defense on Nov. 19.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cole Presley)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- NATO delegates board an Air Force KC-135 on their way to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., after finishing a tour of Vandenberg and learning about missile defense on Nov. 19. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cole Presley)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Doug Booth of the Missile Defense Agency gives a power point presentation about the missile defense ability of Vandenberg to NATO delegates at the Pacific Coast Club, here, before their tour of the base on Nov. 19.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Doug Booth of the Missile Defense Agency gives a power point presentation about the missile defense ability of Vandenberg to NATO delegates at the Pacific Coast Club, here, before their tour of the base on Nov. 19. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- NATO delegates await their departure from Vandenberg on their way to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in a U.S. Air Force KC-135, after finishing a tour of Vandenberg and learning about missile defense on Nov. 19.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cole Presley)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- NATO delegates await their departure from Vandenberg on their way to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in a U.S. Air Force KC-135, after finishing a tour of Vandenberg and learning about missile defense on Nov. 19. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cole Presley)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- NATO members receive a power point presentation about the missile defense ability of Vandenberg at the Pacific Coast Club before their tour of the base on Nov. 19.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cole Presley)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- NATO members receive a power point presentation about the missile defense ability of Vandenberg at the Pacific Coast Club before their tour of the base on Nov. 19. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cole Presley)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Forty-five NATO delegates visited Vandenberg Monday to receive a briefing and tour of the Missile Defense Agency's Ground-based Missile Defense facilities here.

The visit addressed concerns from various European countries about the proposed deployment of components of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System within the Czech Republic and Poland.

The 45 visitors included 33 delegates from various European countries, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark and Italy. The delegation included 10 international media reporters, each from a different European country.

"There is some concern as to the necessity of these missiles in Europe," said a NATO representative escorting the media. "This is a great opportunity for the U.S. to show the European delegates and the citizens of their countries how the program is run here and give them a better idea of what to expect in the Czech Republic and Poland."

The delegation visited a missile assembly building in which they saw the interceptor missiles at various stages of assembly. They also saw Launch Facility-02 to get an idea of the size of the entire launch complex to be placed in Poland.

After the tour of LF-02, the party took a military flight to Beale AFB, Calif., to view other GMD assets before returning to Vandenberg.

"Among other things, we wanted the European delegates to understand the minimal footprint of the proposed site and reinforce the ideology behind placing the missiles there in the first place," said Maj. Thomas Atkins, Deputy Director of the Operations Support Group at Vandenberg for the Ground-based Missile Defense site. "There are growing concerns in the U.S. of certain nations developing long-range ballistic missiles and what their capabilities will be. By placing the missiles in Poland, we will have the opportunity to protect not only America, but many countries in Europe."

However, the emplacement of the missile site in Central Europe as a defensive weapon is something the MDA is hoping would deter any ideas of attack on America and its allies among Europe.

"The best weapon is one that you don't have to use because its deterrence is so good," Major Atkins said.

Vandenberg supports the MDA mission by providing launch facilities for the testing of the GMD system and the use of the Western Range. The Western Range stretches across the Pacific Ocean from Vandenberg to West of Hawaii.