Across the vast Pacific stands a growing national security threat of China to the United States of America who is challenging status quo, increasing its influence in the region and investing with the world’s second largest economy in overwhelming military capacity to deny and overcome U.S. and Pacific allied military presence in this region of Chinese interest.
Adding to this massive undertaking by the Chinese is the proxy state of North Korea who, bent on self-preservation and regime survival, is achieving nuclear weapon projection into the Pacific region through means of ballistic missiles. This volatile mixture along with wavering Pacific bordering nations that want to align with the dominant power to ensure their survivability and best environment of future economic trade and wealth, makes the Pacific the most important region in the world for the United States to strategically posture and shape for the future.
China’s overwhelming superiority and capacity in advanced complex cruise and ballistic missiles from 360 degrees upon the first island chain from Okinawa, Japan to Taiwan has make them undefendable. The second island chain to include Guam is close to being similarly overwhelmed by Chinese missiles. Chinese significant investments, development and testing into hypersonic capability, complex maneuvering cruise and multiple reentry warhead ballistic missiles and antisatellite space capability demonstrate the propensity to defeat and overcome U.S. advanced military systems and their deployments throughout the Pacific. (Click here to read an article discussing China’s recent test of an MIRVed ICBM). China has made it abundantly clear in its actions, it capability deployed, capacity built, and investment in defense spending to build more capacity, its intent to overwhelm U.S. territory, forward operating bases and carrier strike groups in the Pacific and the United States capacity to defend them. China, unlike Russia, is in for the long strategic journey for supremacy of the region of this part of the world which it feels entitled.
North Korea has limited numbers of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that are believed to be capable of delivering nuclear reentry vehicles into the atmosphere up to intermediate ballistic missile ranges of 3,500 km (2,175 miles) threatening the Pacific region and American forward operating bases located there. The solid-fueled road-mobile KN-08 ranges could exceed at the upper limits of the range to reach Hawaii and the west coast of the United States. with a nuclear warhead. North Korea continues to test its ballistic missiles over 41 last year alone and some in lofted trajectories along with its ongoing nuclear miniaturization testing which it did twice last year. North Korea is at a tipping point with its ICBM Nuclear warhead development and its confrontation with the new United States President.
In the integrated air and missile defense of the Pacific, the platforms to launch missiles are not just limited to land based territories in Asia, they can be launched from aircraft and sea based vessels that include not only military ships and boats but containerized commercial shipping vessels. It is a massive complex threat that requires overhead sensors in air and space to provide warning and targeting. The United States Navy has countered effectively with multi-purpose and multi mission ships with multi use complex interceptors and fused naval sensors remotely to provide adequate protection of its carrier battle groups. The multiple small islands spread throughout the Pacific make the air and missile defense of fixed land based forward operating bases on those islands a very complex technological problem of capability, capacity and affordability for the United States and its Pacific Allies.
The most critical element required for an effective missile and air defense for the United States across the vast Pacific to defend its forward operating bases, carrier battle groups and allies is layers in space, air, land and sea of distributed persistent sensors that can fuse together eliminating gaps of coverage to track and discriminate ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, hypersonic vehicles for firing solutions and provide intelligence and surveillance before launches would occur. Space satellite constellations are required to cover the massive and vast Pacific, as fixed radar sites with the exception of defending critical assets like Hawaii, Guam and Japan against a specific known threat launch location area are limited in view and by the curvature of the earth.
The second critical element is reducing the cost of interceptors and integrating new technologies with current ones in a seamless continuum of capabilities from left of launch to right of launch of the threat missiles. Electric attack, soft kill, directed energy, rail guns, and hypervelocity powder guns need to be heavily invested to increase power, reduce weight, develop, test and deployed within this continuum. We hope President Trump addresses this in his new Ballistic Missile Defense Review.
Click here to read about the Trump Administration’s call for a new Ballistic Missile Defense Review. Relevant information in Section 3.
Hawaii, with its geographic location and its strategic role in projection of U.S. military capability and command to the Pacific region, is without doubt the most vulnerable U.S. state of the 50 states. It is the closest to both North Korea and China in the middle of the Pacific and will be most sought to overwhelm with missile capacity and strike over any other U.S. state. The current missile defense system protecting all 50 states is dependent on discrimination and tracking sensors for interceptor confidence and reliability. This sensor system for the ballistic paths from North Korea to the United States Mainland is persistent, distributed and permanent. Hawaii located in the middle of the Pacific doesn’t have the persistence and multiple discrimination and tracking sensors for a North Korean missile that the 49 mainland states have. Nor does Hawaii have 360-degree sensor coverage, a persistent land based long range discriminating sensor facing west and fixed persistent overhead sensors.
Hawaii, though it is home to PACOM, to the Pacific Fleet, the Mid Pacific Fleet, 15th Air Wing, 25th Infantry Division and 3rd Marine Regiment, has to rely on a one-shot opportunity to shoot down North Korean long-range missiles from ground based interceptors over 4,200 km (2,500 miles) away in the mainland and which has to further extend over 2,000km (1,500 miles) further west of Hawaii to reach a midcourse space interception point. None of the other 49 states are limited to a one-shot opportunity for defense from North Korean ballistic missiles. Instead, all 49 other states have more than two shot opportunities because of the physics of the incoming threat missile trajectories and the physical location of the Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) in Alaska and California.
Hawaii, should it be determined to be prioritized to be defended, would need to look at the best overall solution that would address forward-basing both a discriminating long range sensor and interceptors in Hawaii at the ideal location and also further into the Pacific towards Asia to provide more shot opportunities and layers for its defense. With the ideal solutions, cost factors and current capability in place at PMRF that may not be ideal but adequate, would have to be further addressed for the best practical solution. Regardless and during this discourse, an interim emergency activation of existing capability in Hawaii should exist, only to be activated by the status of the threat determined by the Department of Defense.
Last week, MDAA Chairman and Founder Riki Ellison visited the Hawaii state capitol and briefed state leadership on the importance of missile defense for the Hawaiian Islands.
Click here to read an article from the Honolulu Star Advertiser about MDAA’s trip to Hawaii.
Click here to view Hawaii’s missile defense white paper.