Ryan Pickrell on October 4, 2017
The U.S. is preparing to redirect hundreds of millions of dollars to improve its antimissile systems in the face of growing North Korean threats.
With the approval of various congressional defense committees, more than $400 million in unspent funds will be taken from other accounts and shifted to American missile defense programs. These funds will be used to purchase additional ground-based interceptors and upgrade Navy antimissile systems, according to Bloomberg News.
The U.S. may also choose to allocate additional resources to these programs with increased defense spending for the coming year. “We’re going to be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars because of North Korea and other reasons,” President Donald Trump said in August.
North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) twice in July. The North’s Hwasong-14 ICBM is believed to be capable of delivering a nuclear payload to parts, if not most, of the continental U.S. North Korea tested a staged thermonuclear weapon earlier this month, and in the aftermath, Pyongyang said the country intends to mount the bomb on its new long-range missile.
Leading experts, as well as high-ranking military officials, have concluded that North Korea tested a bomb designed to destroy an urban center. The North’s new-found nuclear power has emboldened the regime, which threatened just last week to “reduce America into a sea of flames.”
The North is advancing its ballistic missile program at an accelerated rate to counter the offensive capabilities of the U.S. and its regional allies. The regime has tested nearly two dozen missiles this year, successfully launching new and improved short-, medium-, intermediate-, and long-range ballistic missiles.
The U.S. has conducted several intercept tests this year, including an ICBM intercept test using the ground-based midcourse defense systems at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, tests of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system against medium-range ballistic missiles, and tests of the onboard missile defense systems on certain American destroyers.
Almost all of these tests, except for one that failed due to operator error, have been successful.
The U.S. military has expressed confidence in its ability to stop a limited North Korean ballistic missile, but senior officials have also acknowledged that more needs to be done to improve American kinetic missile defense systems. There is also an interest in non-kinetic systems, such as lasers, but this technology is still in development.
U.S. allies in Northeast Asia have also put increased emphasis on missile defense. Japan relies on a tiered missile defense system involving Aegis destroyers and land-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) systems. As North Korea has twice launched intermediate-range ballistic missiles over Japan into the Pacific, the country is also looking to acquire Aegis Ashore to boost domestic missile defense.
South Korea has deployed THAAD batteries and other antimissile systems to protect it against a possible North Korean missile strike. U.S. allies are also considering strengthening their offensive capabilities in the event of a conflict.
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