Pentagon to test ability to shoot down North Korean missiles
Barbara Starr, CNN, Apr 19 2017
The Pentagon will conduct two major high-stakes tests in May of its ability to shoot down missiles launched out of North Korea. The long-scheduled tests in the Pacific are part of the Pindo military’s overall ballistic missile defense program to defend against North Korean or Iranian threats, but for now at least, they are aimed at ensuring that Pindostan can defend against a threat from North Korea, defense officials said. One of the actions will involve test-firing an improved Standard Missile (SM-3 or conceivably SM-6 – RB) off a Navy ship, a defense official said. The tests are taking place over the Pacific because that’s where the test ranges are large enough to accommodate them. The upgraded missile has only been tested once before. The new version has an improved booster and warhead. That means the missile could fire at longer ranges, presumably farther from the North Korean coastline, and have a greater chance of hitting the threatening incoming missile. The program has been in development with Japan and is aimed at shooting down intermediate-range North Korean missiles that pose a threat to the Pindosi vassal (South Korea). A separate critical test in the Pacific region, to be held at the end of May, will examine the ability of Pindostan to shoot down a future North Korean ICBM that could threaten Pindostan. That test involves long-range ground-based interceptor missiles based in Alaska and California. That program has also been in existence for over a decade, but only about half the tests have been successful, according to the DoD. In the most recent Pentagon report on weapons testing across the department, the long-range system was criticized. The report said:
It demonstrates a limited capability to defend the Pindo homeland from small numbers of simple IRBM or ICBM threats launched from North Korea or Iran. The Pentagon continued to discover new failures during testing.
In the upcoming test, a missile will be launched from the Vandenberg AFB in California and attempt to intercept a simulated missile over the Pacific Ocean. A defense official said:
As part of a broader NSC review of options for dealing with North Korea, the Pentagon has been considering its military options for more than a month in case the White House were to decide to take such action. The NSC effort is also looking at diplomatic and economic options. The recent engagement with the Chinese, and the stronger language calling for more Chinese pressure on North Korea, is the most immediate impact of that review. The review of military options is essentially due diligence. Top military and civilian Pentagon boxtops are thinking through every course of action. That also involves updating any analysis on the latest thinking of how North Korea might militarily react if Pindostan were to take military steps. All of the ongoing work doesn’t change the administration’s and the Pentagon’s emphasis on the need for a peaceful diplomatic solution. Pindostan is currently not anticipating pre-emptive military action against North Korea. Standard policy, which calls for shooting down of a North Korean missile after launch if the trajectory is deemed to threaten South Korea, Japan or Pindostan, remains in place. The review also is aimed at ensuring necessary military assets are properly situated if there is a need for military action.
Multiple Pindo boxtops said all current anti-missile ships and other ground-based interceptors in Alaska are available. Even as the military options are reviewed and updated, Sec Def Mad Dog Mattis is also underscoring the need for a non-military solution. He recently told reporters:
You’re aware that the leader of North Korea again recklessly tried to provoke something by launching a missile. It was not an ICBM. It failed on launch, and it shows why we’re working so closely right now with the Chinese to get this under control and aim for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. China and Pindostan and South Korea, Japan, we all share that same interest.