As of late on social media, I often stumble across a lot of incorrect hysteria about North Korea and their missiles. I do believe NK is a threat (in some capacity) and if they have advanced hydrogen-tech, it provides a very troubling situation for the world that will only continue to worsen. However, the lack of knowledge regarding our missile defense systems is astounding.
So, I want to clear up a few common misconceptions and give you all a basic understanding of our Pacific Missile Defense Systems.
What Are Our Missile Defense Systems in The Pacific?
In the Pacific, we have three principal systems in place:
- AEGIS BMD (Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Systems)
- THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense)
- MIM-104 Patriot, Specifically the “PAC-3” (Patriot Missile)
All 3 have benefits/cons. However, they all tend to work in conjunction with one another for different types of threats.
Defeats short- to intermediate-range, unitary and separating, midcourse-phase, ballistic missile threats with the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), as well as short-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase with the SM-2
It is also being upgraded to provide additional support for longer range missiles, and to repair some of the old ones that have not been kept up to date because of budget cuts from the previous administration.
As of 2014, we had about 16 of these in the Pacific fleet. On top of that, some of our allies have also purchased them in the Pacific arena.
This missile defense system is land based, as the picture shows.
Highly effective against the asymmetric ballistic missile threats.
The high-altitude intercept mitigates effects of enemy weapons of mass destruction before they reach the ground.
THAAD makes up for AEGIS’ shortcomings. It is also easier to maintain than an AEGIS system and is active in most of our ally countries in the Pacific.
It is the main defense against ICBMs. THAAD has also worked fluently as well, passing 15 of 15 tests.
If NK launches a missile that must be intercepted, it is almost 100% that THAAD will be the one taking it down.
The PAC-3 isn’t really a stand-alone variant. In the case of an actual attack, it would be used in support of THAAD.
But that doesn’t mean these things aren’t unbelievable feats of engineering.
This defense system:
Works with THAAD to provide an integrated, overlapping defense against missile threats in the terminal phase of flight. Jointly, these systems engage the threat by forming a multi-tier theater defense against adversary missile threats using peer-to-peer engagement coordination, early warning track data, and battle management situational awareness.
Contributes to the entire system’s situational awareness by transmitting precision cueing data to other theater elements while simultaneously protecting system assets against short-range ballistic missiles, large-caliber rockets, and air-breathing threats.
Other Defense Systems
We also have a slew of other different kind of defenses. Things such as C-RAM, the ABL, advanced sensor technology, the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD), and others. However, as far as I know these are only active on our warships and within the territory of the United States.
Then What Is The Threat?
With all these wonderful missile defense systems, should South Korea/Japan/Guam and the US still be worried about a ballistic strike?
However, it’s not as “the world is ending” as many would have you believe. We have a lot of systems in place to prevent an ICBM, or limited air strikes. Our allies in that region do as well, and would likely strike first before any missile would even near us.
The biggest threat is a mass artillery attack by North Korea. That is something that these defense systems would struggle to inhibit. However, this could not occur in the US at the moment. South Korea and other nearby states are the most likely to get hit by an artillery attack of this magnitude. And that is a valid concern.
However, I mentioned C-RAM above. C-RAM stands for “Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar“. These things aren’t perfect and wouldn’t stop every missile attack. But they are in South Korea, and could intercept many of them.
C-RAM is what the Israelis use for their Iron Dome defense system. That should be a raving testimony to their efficiency.
We have a solid defense network with our allies against missile threats in the Pacific.
South Korea is the most likely target of North Korean aggression, and our systems would not provide a 100% success rate. However, the possibility of SK being “wiped off the map” is simply hysteria. The same goes for any missile of theirs reaching us from their NK launchpads.
The chance of an NK missile reaching Guam or North America is incredibly unlikely. Any incoming missile would be targeted by THAAD/PAC-3 and be shot down. Any other threats would be handled fluently by C-RAM or our warships. Those of us in the United States are not at a large risk.
The situation I find most troubling is North Korea’s acquisition of the Hydrogen bomb. This will ensure compounding problems for everyone in the Asian arena.
Appeasement against North Korea has not worked. They are a rogue state controlled by China. And they will only continue to build more powerful weapons in the meantime.
It is likely that the entire world will have to finally deal with them at some point in time. The only question is when.
But, for now, we at least don’t need to be worried about a barrage of missiles landing on our coast directly from NK borders.