Concerned that the missile defense system designed to protect US cities is insufficient by itself to deter a North Korean attack, the Trump administration is expanding its strategy to also try to stop Pyongyang’s missiles before they get far from Korean airspace.
The first involves stepped-up cyberattacks and other sabotage that would interfere with missile launches before they occur — what the Pentagon calls “left of launch.” The second is a new approach to blowing up the missiles in the “boost phase,” when they are slow-moving, highly visible targets.
In interviews, defense officials, along with top scientists and senior members of Congress, described the accelerated effort as a response to the unexpected progress that North Korea has made in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to the continental United States.
“It is an all-out effort,” said Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who returned from a lengthy visit to South Korea last month convinced that the United States needed to do far more to counter North Korea. “There is a fast-emerging threat, a diminishing window, and a recognition that we can’t be reliant on one solution.”
White House has requested $4 billion from US Congress for these new approaches to deal with North Korea
In this video, Defense Updates analyses the 2 new approaches U.S plans, to deal with North Korean missiles.
For years, US has invested in multilayered missile defense systems.
GROUND-BASED MIDCOURSE DEFENSE is designed to protect US mainland. Missile defense batteries of the system in Alaska and California would target any long-range warheads fired toward the US mainland, trying to shoot them down as they re-enter the atmosphere.
PATRIOT PAC-3 MISSILE DEFENSE & Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) stationed in South Korea & Japan to protect US allies as well as intercept missile that may target Guam.
The third is AEGIES Ballistic Missile Defense enabled destroyers that are deployed in Korean waters to protect against medium-range missiles.
All these system have their hit and misses in tests and are not 100% proven solutions.
Let us now look into the 2 new approaches one by one
Using cyberweapons to disrupt launches is a radical innovation in missile defense in the past three decades. But in the case of North Korea, it is also the most difficult. It requires getting into the missile manufacturing, launch control and guidance systems of a country that makes very limited use of the internet and has few connections to the outside world — most of them through China and, to a lesser degree, Russia.
In the operation that began in 2014, a range of cyber and electronic-interference operations were used against the North’s Musudan intermediate-range missiles, in an effort to slow its testing. But that secret effort had mixed results.
The failure rate for the Musudan missile soared to 88%, but it was never clear how much of that was due to the cyberattacks and how much to sabotage of the North’s supply chain and its own manufacturing errors. Then Kim Jong Un, the country’s president, ordered a change in design, and the test-launches have been far more successful.
The second idea is having stealth fighters such as the F-22 or the F-35 scramble from nearby bases in South Korea and Japan at the first sign of North Korean launch preparations. The jets would carry conventional air-to-air missiles, and fire them at the North Korean long-range missiles after they are launched. But they would have to fly relatively close to North Korea to do that, increasing the chances of being shot down.
A boost-phase idea getting much notice would be to have drones patrol high over the Sea of Japan, awaiting a North Korean launch. Remote operators would fire heat-sensing rockets that lock onto the rising missiles.
Leonard Caveny, a main planner of the rocket-firing drones and a former Navy officer who directed science and technology at the Pentagon’s anti-missile program from 1985 to 1997, said an accelerated program could produce the weapons in a year or less.
Cavity’s team is considering arming the Avenger, a drone made by General Atomics with a long range missile.
The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency is also developing a drone that would fire potent laser beams at rising missiles. But recent plans would have it make its debut no sooner than 2025 — too late to play a role in the current crisis or the Trump presidency.
Han Tae Song, the North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, ruled out negotiations with America as long as joint US-South Korea military exercises continued.
He said the country was “ready” for new sanctions and dismissed the possibility of North Korea being added to a list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
Audio by Scott Leffler — scottleffler.com