The Republic of South Korea released its 2015 Defense White paper yesterday assessing the current threat from North Korea. In its report, the South Korean Ministry of Defense, their equivalent to the Pentagon, stated that North Korea has made significant advancements on nuclear warhead miniaturization and progress towards the capability to mount nuclear warheads on existing ballistic missiles. The paper also stated that North Korea may have extended the range of its long range missiles to as much as 10,000 kilometers. This range would encompass the Pacific Region including Alaska, the West Coast of the United States, Hawaii and Guam, as well as most of the European continent. In addition, the paper says that North Korea is pursuing the capability to launch its ballistic missiles from submarines.
In its efforts to stay ahead of the North Korean threat, the United States successfully tested its second generation (CE-II) version of its ground based missile interceptor (GBI) this past summer. The test, FTG-06b, has opened up the opportunity to refit the existing GBIs deployed in Alaska and California to this proven CE-II version, adding more confidence and reliability to intercept. The United States is also addressing the requirement to modernize the existing kill vehicles both CE-I and CE-II that make up the 30 currently deployed GBIs, soon to be 44 by 2018, which are over 20 years old in technology. Parallel to these efforts, the United States is moving to develop, acquire, and deploy a Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) to Alaska to create more battle space and better track long-range ballistic missiles from North Korea heading towards the United States. The fate of these additional upgrades, modifications to the GBI and the new LRDR will be up to the new Congress, President Obama and incoming Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
In staying ahead of the North Korean threat, it is important to note that on December 26th, the United States and Japan declared operational a second long-range sensor radar in Japan, an Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance (AN/TPY-2) radar in Kyogamisaki, Japan. This second TPY-2 radar will greatly enhance sensor coverage for the ballistic missile defense of Japan and the U.S. homeland. The Kyogamisaki Communications Site radar will augment an existing AN/TPY-2 radar located at Shariki in northern Japan for the early discrimination and tracking of North Korean medium and long-range ballistic missiles heading for the United States. Having these two radar locations provide a net coverage of both northern and eastern trajectories of ballistic missiles from North Korea towards the United States and Japan.
These radars use the X-Band wavelength to reflect the most precise imagery of very small objects flying in space and can discriminate between warheads, debris, chaff and decoys of the moving cloud of debris surrounding a ballistic missile after separation as it travels through space. Separating the exact threat from the non-threat objects and cueing this critical information via C2BMC to the appropriate determined ballistic missile defense interceptors on sea or land increases reliability, and is the vital mission of these sensors. The AN/TPY-2 X-Band radar can also handle large raids and salvo launches in its discrimination and tracking. This capability reclaims the battle-space the enemy is trying to negate by firing heavy volumes of missiles. This special, rapidly deployable radar has two different variances and applications for our nation’s missile defense.
The first application is as the THAAD radar for locating and targeting incoming ballistic missiles for each of the THAAD Batteries deployed in Guam and stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. The other version is in the early warning, discrimination and tracking application as used in Japan in the two sites but also used today in Turkey, Israel and the Persian Gulf. Any region or country that is threatened by ballistic missiles would need these types of sensors. In the case of Japan, these radars provide persistent, fixed radar coverage from key geographical locations, helping reduce the burden of having assigned Aegis BMD ships on picket duties for sensing ballistic missiles, thereby releasing these ships for other duties.
In today’s changing world with the threat of North Korea evolving, we need to ensure our nation, our forward deployed troops and our allies are protected. It is critical that our President, our new Congress and our new incoming Secretary of Defense provide the necessary support to test, acquire and deploy sensors and interceptors to defend our people and our way of life from North Korea.
We must stay ahead of the curve.
– Riki Ellison
MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.
MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.