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The Republic of South Korea recently released its 2015 Defense White paper 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.
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.
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 we 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.
Written by: Riki Ellison, Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA) Chairman and Founder