Kauai fa­cil­ity will be used to track mis­siles, not shoot them down

A Kauai test­ing fa­cil­ity likely will mon­i­tor threats rather than guard against them

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Wil­liam Cole wcole@starad­ver­tiser.com

A mis­sile test­ing fa­cil­ity on Kauai won’t be con­verted to de­fend Hawaii against North Korean threats in the short term, with the Pen­tagon in­stead look­ing at in­stalling a medium-range dis­crim­i­na­tion radar to track and iden­tify en­emy mis­siles to bet­ter pro­tect the state.

The out­look was among those high­lighted at the an­nual Cham­ber of Com­merce Hawaii Mil­i­tary Af­fairs Coun­cil part­ner­ship con­fer­ence Fri­day at the state Capi­tol.

Mil­i­tary com­man­ders and lead­ers who briefed the busi­ness com­mu­nity and took ques­tions also said they are hop­ing for in­creased ca­pa­bil­ity un­der a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to bet­ter ad­dress threats in the re­gion.

The “Aegis Ashore” launcher at the Pa­cific Mis­sile Range Fa­cil­ity uses a SPY-1 radar and SM-3 mis­siles in a land-based con­fig­u­ra­tion sim­i­lar to the sys­tem used on Navy Aegis ships with bal­lis­tic mis­sile shoot­down ca­pa­bil­ity.

The Kauai site was in­stalled as a test fa­cil­ity for Aegis Ashore in­stal­la­tions in Ro­ma­nia and Poland. In the face of es­ca­lat­ing North Korean nu­cle­ariza­tion, some called for Kauai’s Aegis Ashore to also be on de­fense for po­ten­tial mis­sile threats aimed at Hawaii.

Ge­orge Kaili­wai, di­rec­tor of the re­sources and as­sess­ment direc­torate at U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand, said fol­low­ing a break­out group on PMRF that it was pre­ma­ture to con­sider op­er­a­tional­iz­ing Aegis Ashore.

Kaili­wai said the com­mand has no plans to make the fa­cil­ity de­fen­sive in na­ture.

While such a step is not be­ing taken off the ta­ble, “we ought not pre­sume that the Aegis Ashore fa­cil­ity is the right so­lu­tion at this point in time,” he said.

The fo­cus right now “is on the sen­sor it­self” — a radar that could bet­ter track mis­siles pos­si­bly headed for Hawaii, he said. Such a radar would be linked to ground­based in­ter­cep­tor mis­siles in Cal­i­for­nia and Alaska.

The re­cently signed Na­tional De­fense Au­tho­riza­tion Act for 2017 re­quires the Pen­tagon to eval­u­ate the bal­lis­tic mis­sile threat to Hawaii and the ef­fi­cacy of mak­ing the Kauai Aegis Ashore site op­er­a­tional as well as de­ploy­ing the pre­ferred al­ter­na­tive of field­ing the medium-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile radar.

Where such a radar would be lo­cated hasn’t been de­ter­mined, Kaili­wai said.

Congress also is pro­hibit­ing over fis­cal 2017 any re­duc­tion in man­ning or test ca­pa­bil­i­ties with the Aegis Ashore fa­cil­ity be­yond what ex­isted on Jan. 1, 2015. The pro­vi­sion was put in place to pre­vent the site from go­ing into a “cold” or “standby” sta­tus if mis­sile de­fense test­ing di­min­ished.

Adm. Harry B. Har­ris Jr., head of U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand, said early last year that con­sid­er­a­tion should be given to en­abling Kauai’s Aegis Ashore to pro­tect against North Korean threats.

The late U.S. Rep. Mark Takai also ad­vo­cated us­ing Aegis Ashore for de­fense, as did Riki El­li­son, chair­man of the non­profit Mis­sile De­fense Ad­vo­cacy Al­liance, which seeks a strong U.S. mis­sile de­fense.

El­li­son last year said Hawaii lagged in bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fense while the United States poured bil­lions into the de­fense of Alaska and the main­land, Guam, Ja­pan and South Korea.

He said Aegis Ashore should be part of a lay­ered de­fense that is needed to pro­vide more than one shot at an in­com­ing mis­sile with main­land-based in­ter­cep­tor mis­siles. An op­er­a­tional Aegis Ashore could pro­vide at least two more shot op­por­tu­ni­ties in the ter­mi­nal phase of a North Korean bal­lis­tic mis­sile, he said.

The gi­ant Sea-Based X-Band Radar, usu­ally berthed at Ford Is­land, is seen as hav­ing lim­i­ta­tions in that it has to be moved out to sea for use and has a nar­row field of view that di­min­ishes ca­pa­bil­ity.

Dur­ing an open­ing ses­sion of the part­ner­ship con­fer­ence, a ques­tion put to mil­i­tary com­man­ders was what was at the top of their needs list un­der a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Craig Whelden, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ma­rine Corps Forces Pa­cific, said, “I think near the top of our list

is growth.”

The Ma­rine Corps dropped from 202,000 Marines to 182,000 and was ex­pected to rise up to 185,000, he said. Spread­ing Marines across the Pa­cific has re­sulted in the need for more wrench turn­ers and sus­tain­ers, he said, adding that short­age needs to be fixed be­fore more bat­tal­ions are added.

Whelden also gave an up­date on the sta­tus of the Corps in the Pa­cific, and said the re­lo­ca­tion of about 2,700 Marines from Ok­i­nawa, Ja­pan, to Hawaii is about 10 years away.

Army Lt. Gen. Tony Crutch­field, deputy com­man­der of U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand, spoke to the Army’s needs and said bud­get lim­i­ta­tions led to the de­ci­sion to have be­tween 450,000 and 465,000 sol­diers.

“That’s too low,” Crutch­field said, adding that Army lead­er­ship now be­lieves 485,000 is about the right num­ber.

Maj. Gen. Mark Dillon, vice com­man­der of Pa­cific Air Forces, said in the ever-chang­ing Pa­cific en­vi­ron­ment, air su­pe­ri­or­ity “re­mains job No. 1” and that con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment of fifth-gen­er­a­tion air­craft — mean­ing the pin­na­cle of tech­nol­ogy, of­ten in­clud­ing stealth — “is vi­tally im­por­tant.”

“For me it’s readi­ness, main­te­nance and train­ing,” said Rear Adm. Vic Mer­cado, di­rec­tor of mar­itime op­er­a­tions for U.S. Pa­cific Fleet, which has about 200 ships and 1,100 air­craft.

Mer­cado said it’s “crit­i­cal” that the Navy make time and money avail­able for main­te­nance.

“We are run­ning our ships and they are do­ing great work,” he said. “We need to bring them back (pe­ri­od­i­cally). We need to do the main­te­nance.”

Rear Adm. Vin­cent Atkins, head of the 14th Coast Guard Dis­trict, pointed out that the U.S. Coast Guard is the 11th-largest navy in the world.

“And yet our ships, most of them, we built in the 1960s and 1970s,” he said, adding that it’s time to re­place many of them and per­haps in­crease Coast Guard pres­ence in the Asia-Pa­cific.

Atkins noted the sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence of an­other na­tion’s coast guard in the South China Sea: that of China.

“So how does the United States Coast Guard get out there and rep­re­sent us and our in­ter­ests?” he asked.

Stephen Sasaki, fa­cil­i­ties su­per­in­ten­dent at the Pearl Har­bor Naval Ship­yard, com­mented from the au­di­ence rather than ask­ing a ques­tion.

The ship­yard de­liv­ered the sub­ma­rine USS Bre­mer­ton early af­ter a main­te­nance pe­riod — with a large part of the work­force hav­ing less than five years’ ex­pe­ri­ence on the job, he said.

COUR­TESY RICHARD LEHNER / 2013

Ge­orge Kaili­wai, di­rec­tor of the re­sources and as­sess­ment direc­torate at U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand, said Fri­day at the an­nual Cham­ber of Com­merce Hawaii Mil­i­tary Af­fairs Coun­cil part­ner­ship con­fer­ence that it was pre­ma­ture to con­sider op­er­a­tional­iz­ing the Aegis Ashore launcher as an­other way to ward off po­ten­tial mis­sile threats aimed at Hawaii in light of North Korea’s re­newed in­ter­est in nu­cle­ariza­tion. Shown is an aerial view of Aegis Ashore at the Pa­cific Mis­sile Range Fa­cil­ity.

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