A Shot Heard in North Korea

October 29, 2010

Dear Members and Friends,

Against the back drop of the Kauai Eternal Veteran Memorial & Missile Defense Viewing site at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Barking Sands, Hawaii, a three-stage medium-range target missile holding a warhead, which contained a few hundred pounds of explosives, shot brilliantly across the Hawaiian sky. The target missile traveled west rising up to 130 miles up in space with a maximum distance of approximately 900 miles.


A few hundred miles west of Kauai, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer JS Kirishima (DDG-174) patrolled the waters defending an area of ocean another few hundred miles further west. The JS Kirishima is one of only four Japanese Kongo class destroyers equipped with Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (Aegis BMD).


Without assistance, the Japanese crew of the JS Kirishima tracked the speeding target with the ship’s AN/SPY-1 radar and processed a firing solution to intercept the incoming missile. Once a firing solution had been achieved, the combat systems crew of the JS Kirishima launched a U.S. made Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 1A missile at the target.


The three-stage SM-3 Block 1A missile screamed towards the target at close to 3km/s, locating and completely destroying the medium-range target missile. The missile’s kill vehicle slammed into the target with a combined closing velocity of approximately twenty times the speed of sound, close to 130 miles up in space. Impact and destruction of the target missile happened three minutes (5:09PM HST / 11:09PM EST) after the target missile launch (5:06PM HST / 11:06PM EST).


This exercise clearly orchestrated the geometry and physics of a successful and realistic demonstration of Japan’s Kongo Class destroyer’s ability to defend the homeland and population of Japan from a medium-range ballistic missile launched by North Korea.


The JS Kirishima will soon join her three other Aegis BMD equipped sister ships (JS Kongo, JS Chokai and JS Myoko) who have all been outfitted in Hawaii and tested there annually over the past 4 years. These ships will be patrolling the waters between Japan and North Korea offering substantial 24/7 protection to their country against ballistic missile threats from North Korea. The allied force of the JMSDF combined with U.S. Aegis BMD ships from the Navy’s 7th Fleet, which currently patrol the international waters between Japan and North Korea, provide a formidable deterrent for the protection of Japan and U.S. forces located there.


South Korea and Australia watched this test with keen interest. They are two additional Pacific Rim U.S. allies that are interested in building BMD ship capabilities for similar reasons of deterrence and homeland protection. Australia would also use the BMD capability to protect its troops deployed away from home.


It is of note that this week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Hawaii and Admiral Robert Willard, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command headquartered in Hawaii, will have missile defense as an additional tool of deterrence for the U.S. diplomatic efforts in stabilizing the Far East region during a presumed upcoming transition of leadership and power in North Korea.


Our nation and world are safer with allies and friends such as Japan who have missile defense capabilities and are capable of sharing the cost and responsibility.


Congratulations to the crew of the JS Kirishima and the JMSDF.


It was an honor to watch this test from the Kauai Eternal Veterans Memorial & Missile Defense Viewing Site at PMRF; a site which MDAA helped create along with Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and the United States Navy.

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