Funds sought for defensive radar for isles
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency is requesting $96 million in fiscal 2019 that would go toward the installation of two powerful radars in the Pacific — including one newly announced — to counter North Korean threats.
The agency is seeking $62.2 million in funding for the Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii, which will directly aid the state and “provide a persistent, long-range acquisition and discrimination capability” for incoming ballistic missiles, according to a new budget estimate.
“Discrimination” refers to identifying warheads amid decoys and rocket parts.
Construction on the Hawaii radar is expected to start in fiscal year 2021. Phase 1 (FY 2021,
$138 million) funds a mission control facility and Phase 2 (FY 2022, $183 million) funds the power plant including fuel storage and associated site support, a budget report said.
The agency sought $21 million last year for the new Hawaii radar, which is expected to have initial operating capability in 2023. A site hasn’t been selected yet. The federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
The Missile Defense Agency also is requesting $33.5 million toward a new Homeland Defense Radar-Pacific to be constructed at a still-unnamed location.
“So one of the things that we need to do is maintain the custody of the threat from birth to death,” Gary Pennett, the Missile Defense Agency’s director of operations, said at a Tuesday press briefing. “And so with terrestrial-based radars, we have to put them in locations that we can maintain custody (of a ballistic missile in flight).”
Forward-based radars in Japan have limited reach. A $784 million Long-Range Discrimination Radar is being built in Alaska, but that won’t cover Hawaii.
The radar advances are being pursued in parallel with ongoing missile defense testing. On Jan. 31, a missile launched from the Aegis Ashore site on Kauai failed to intercept an intermediate-range ballistic missile target. The new defensive SM-3 Block IIA missile, co-developed with Japan, is expected to be delivered to Poland and for use by Navy Aegis ships later this year.
The missile is seen as having the potential to defend Hawaii in the future from North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles. ICBMs can travel in excess of 15,000 miles per hour, or almost 20 times the speed of sound.
In the Jan. 31 test, the SM-3 IIA failed to impact a target missile dropped from a cargo airplane, but an “engage-on-remote” function using an AN/TPY-2 radar on Wake Island to cue the SM-3 IIA was successful.
Advance cueing from a variety of radars allows greater lead time in the over-the-horizon intercepts.
“We’re doing a failure review board, but everything that was supposed to happen, up until (and) including the launch of the interceptor, did as it was supposed to do, and the interceptor itself failed to actually achieve the intercept,” Pennett said. “So we believe that it has to do directly, specifically, with the interceptor itself (and) not from the cueing sensors, not from the radar sensors, not from the command control.”
In November, the Missile Defense Agency emplaced the 44th ground-based interceptor, with 40 of the defensive missiles in Alaska and four in California. The missiles provide defense for Hawaii from North Korean ICBMs.
Also within the Missile Defense Agency’s $9.9 billion overall budget submission is the request for $150 million for Pearl Harbor’s Sea-Based X-Band Radar. In the face of the North Korean threat, the agency wants to continue to extend the SBX’s at-sea time.
The Hawaii land-based radar will provide improved coverage over the SBX, which has to be moved back and forth to the vicinity of Midway Atoll for operations.