The U.S. Navy has taken control of a new missile defense base in southern Romania, one of two European land-based interceptor sites for a NATO missile shield which Russia strongly opposes.

The base at Deveselu is scheduled to be operational in 2015 as part of NATO's ballistic missile defense system.

"Ballistic missile threats to the U.S. and our allies are real and growing," said Rear Adm. John Scorby, commander of Navy Region Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia on Friday.

"Fortunately, NATO's capabilities ... against these threats are also real and growing."

The system is the key component in President Barack Obama's plan for a phased deployment of a missile defense umbrella in Europe. Another missile base is scheduled to become operational in Poland by 2018.