This past August, North Korea planned and planted a land mine incident that wounded two ROK soldiers on patrol in the DMZ. Following this incident, Pyongyang fired one round of artillery, causing a direct response of around 30 rounds of counter artillery fire by the Republic of Korea, which resulted in a dangerous active forward massing of armies of millions of soldiers on both sides of the DMZ. This incident in August highlighted one of the most highly volatile challenges to the fragile armistice and brought the Peninsula extremely close to reigniting an active war.
With the 12th largest economy in the world, the Republic of Korea has progressively built and trained an armed force, with the support of the United States, that can confidently deny and defeat a North Korean occupation of the ROK. The only superior military advantage and game changing capability edge that North Korea possesses over the ROK is its arsenal of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
To counter that threat, the United States and the Republic of Korea put limited missile defense systems in place. The ROK deploys a limited terminal defense of Patriot BMD capabilities with its 2nd and 3rd Missile Defense Air Force Brigades and the United States deploys in Korea also a limited terminal defense of Patriot BMD batteries under the 35th Army Air Defense Brigade made up of two ADA Battalions of the 6-52 and the 2-1. These systems are limited in numbers and provide small-range point defense systems that can protect a limited number of offensive ROK and U.S. capabilities, such as air bases and deemed critical assets.
This past year, the ROK has moved forward with upgrading and modernizing their Patriot systems to be similar to those of the United States in software upgrades that enable longer range interceptors and current PAC-3 interceptors as well as interoperability with the United States in the future that would enhance their joint coverage.
However, these short-range, terminal, point defense systems cannot defend all of the critical assets of both the ROK and the United States forces in Korea. The requirement for mitigating the risk to all of Korea from North Korean ballistic missiles armed with nuclear weapons requires a second layer of land-based system deployed in Korea. This system, called the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD), is active and deployed today by the United States in Guam. There are four deployable THAAD firing units stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas today with seven total units slated to come on line. THAAD has a proven 13-for-13 test record and capability to intercept in space as well as in high altitude ballistic missiles. THAAD is the only solution in the world today and near future that can provide full coverage for the Republic of Korea against North Korean ballistic missiles.
With instability of irrational decision making from a North Korean leader that has executed more of his military general flag officers than his father or grandfather, coupled with the regularity of dangerous high tensions that escalate extremely fast, it is simply not rational for the Republic of Korea and its 51.4 million people not to request a United States THAAD unit, especially as they go through modernization of their limited capability to defend small areas of some of their critical assets.
With this onset of acceptance of tremendous risk to Korea, it will be up to the ROK and the United States to move a THAAD system in place as well as expand current Patriot capability in an already over demanded system that is at maximum capacity around the world. Through this challenge it is and will always remain the men and women of the air defense forces in Korea from both the ROK and the United States that operate, maintain and command these vital defensive capabilities to deter and defend against North Korean ballistic missiles.
We were honored to host the 4th annual Korean Peninsula Missile Defender of the Year event in Seoul, Korea on Friday night the 20th of November 2015 with the 7th Air Force Commander, LTG Terrence O’Shaughnessy. The awards and recognition went to ROK Airmen of the 2nd and 3rd Brigades of the ROK, U.S. soldiers from the 6-52 and 2-1 ADA Battalions, a U.S. Airman from the 7th Air Force and a U.S. Sailor from U.S. Naval Forces Korea.
SPC William Smith
SPC Corey Simm
PFC Derek Nunley
PFC James Taylor
PFC Zachary Suttle
Major Christopher McAlear
PV2 Marc-Anthony Villarreal
PFC Joseph Dohmen
Lt. Cdr. Aaron Austin
CMsgt Min Ho, Jang
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.