Line of defense


POSTED: Friday, June 19, 2009

Hawaii's Pacific Command, closely monitoring events in North Korea, says it is “;in good position”; to respond if called upon by the Pentagon.

;[Preview]    North Korea Missile Possible Threat to Hawaii

The U.S. military is moving more missile defense systems to Hawaii due to new fears North Korea may try to fire missiles toward our islands around the Fourth of July.

Watch ]


Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the deployment yesterday of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missiles to Hawaii and deployed the Sea-Based X-Band Radar to provide support from an undisclosed location off the Hawaiian Island chain.

Gates' comments came in response to a report out of Japan that said North Korea might fire its most advanced ballistic missile toward Hawaii about July 4. North Korea test-fired a long-range missile on July 4 three years ago, but it failed seconds after liftoff and fell into the ocean.

The impact of the report on Hawaii tourism is expected to be slight, said state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert. “;With such a large military presence in Hawaii, we don't believe that it's a concern,”; Wienert said.

Asian visitors, especially those that live near North Korea, are unlikely to view travel to Hawaii as risky, said Dave Erdman, president and chief executive of PacRim Marketing Group.

THAAD is one of two ground-based Army mobile missile interceptor systems, according to the Missile Defense Agency. The other is the Patriot Advanced Capability 3. THAAD has been tested several times at Kauai's Barking Sands Pacific Missile Range Facility.

Lt. Cmdr. Chuck Bell, Pacific Command spokesman, said that the THAAD mobile missile interceptor system has been at Barking Sands since 2007. Eight missile launchers are mounted on a flatbed truck. The interceptor missiles have no warheads and rely on “;hit to kill”; technology where kinetic energy destroys the incoming missile during the final or terminal phase of flight.

On June 25, a battery of THAAD soldiers from Fort Bliss, Texas, fired an interceptor missile from a mobile THAAD launcher at Barking Sands, knocking out a drone missile inside the Earth's atmosphere. The soldiers were members of the 6th Air Defense Artillery Brigade's 1st THAAD Battery.

The Pentagon's ballistic missile defense system also includes the Navy's sea-based Aegis surveillance warships, 16 of which are based in the Pacific Fleet.

A key component of the missile defense system is the $900 million high-rise Sea-Based X-Band Radar, housed in a white dome that has become a familiar visitor to the islands since 2006.

The 28-story radar, mounted on a modified semisubmersible oil-drilling platform, left Ford Island on Wednesday for sea trials, according to a spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency in Virginia. The SBX floating radar platform, which is five stories taller than the Ala Moana Building, was in Hawaii for several weeks undergoing maintenance at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

Bell said the floating radar platform, which is said to be able to detect an object the size of a baseball a continent away, will be available to be placed into service if needed. “;It is ready and available,”; Bell added.

However, he declined to say where the radar platform is headed and how long it will be at sea.

The Missile Defense Agency in the past has said information gathered by the floating radar is transmitted to ground-based missile interceptor bases at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

In September 2007, a target missile was successfully tracked by the floating radar platform and the Pearl Harbor-based destroyer USS Russell. The target missile was launched from Kodiak, Alaska. The ground-based interceptor missile was fired from Vandenberg, near Los Angeles, 17 minutes after the target missile was launched. During that missile intercept, the SBX radar was located in the northern Pacific between Alaska and California.

Six of the Navy's 18 cruisers and destroyers equipped with the Aegis long-range surveillance, tracking and missile intercept capabilities are home-ported at Pearl Harbor. They are the cruisers USS Lake Erie and Port Royal and destroyers USS Russell, O'Kane, Paul Hamilton and Hopper.

Star-Bulletin reporter Allison Schaefers and the Associated Press contributed to this report.




Missile defense


Terminal High Altitude Area Defense


        Purpose: Shoot down short- and medium-range ballistic missiles

Platform: Truck with eight launchers


Capability: Intercept and destroy missiles inside or outside the atmosphere


Technology: Uses “;hit to kill”; tactic where kinetic energy destroys the incoming warhead


Sea-based X-band Radar


        It is a combination of an advanced X-band radar and an oceangoing submersible platform:

Cost: $900 million


Craft: Twin-hulled and self-propelled


Crew: 75 to 80


Length: 398 feet


Width: 240 feet


Height: 282 feet


Sea-Based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense


        Capability: Intercept short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles

Testing: 18 intercepts in 22 tests


Deployment: 18 warships—16 in the Pacific Fleet


Interceptors: Standard Missile-3, Standard Missile-2


Key component: AN/SPY-1, a multi-function phased-array radar