Kauai missile site pushed as isles’ protector

January 24, 2017

Honolulu Star Advertiser:

The head of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance still wants the Pentagon to activate a Kauai missile defense testing facility for the protection of Hawaii in emergencies.

Riki Ellison, chairman of the Virginia-based nonprofit, briefed state lawmakers Monday on the state of U.S. missile defense.

Ellison advocates using the $450 million Aegis Ashore facility at the Pacific Missile Range Facility — which was put in place to test missile defense sites for Romania and Poland — for the active defense of Hawaii if threats are imminent.

Crews that are already trained on the mainland and rotate through the European effort could be temporarily flown in to operate the Aegis Ashore facility in an emergency, he said.

Longer term, the Hawaii National Guard could possibly be used to man the facility, which Ellison said has only one remaining test next year. Ellison pushed for “operationalizing” Aegis Ashore last year as well.

But the U.S. Pacific Command recently said it was premature to consider activating Aegis Ashore for defense, and instead wants to install a medium-range discrimination radar in Hawaii that will be linked to ground-based interceptor missiles in Alaska and California that provide ballistic missile shoot-down protection for Hawaii.

Factoring into the equation is evaluating the North Korean threat level and deciding what resources to devote to it.

Ellison said U.S. missile defense could receive billions more in funding under Donald Trump’s presidency. Under the goal of “Making our military strong again,” the Trump White House said on its website Friday that it would “develop a state-of-the-art missile defense system to protect against missile-based attacks from states like Iran and North Korea.”

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un recently said his country was in the “final stages” of test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile, and Ellison said a launch could bring an early indication of Trump’s response to an international event.

“We will most likely see a (North Korean) test, and we’re going to see a reaction from the president that will give us some sort of guidance on where he is and how different he is” from President Barack Obama, Ellison said.

Ellison said the United States is likely headed into an era of greater air, ballistic missile and space defense with an increased focus on “near-peer” countries China and Russia and the further development of cruise missile defenses, satellite sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles that fly at high altitude and have laser shoot-down capability.

Japan has invested close to $1 billion in the development of a more advanced ballistic missile interceptor, the SM-3 Block IIA, and the country is “seriously looking” at installing for its defense the same type of Aegis Ashore facility that exists on Kauai, Ellison said….

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