U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a Friday briefing at the Pentagon. Hagel announced that the U.S. is bolstering its missile defenses against the threat of a possible North Korean missile strike. (Pual J. Richards / AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The United States will spend $1 billion to deploy 14 additional missile interceptors in Alaska to guard against a possible missile attack from North Korea, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Friday in his first foray into the Pentagon briefing room.
The 14 inceptors will add to the 26 already deployed in Alaska and four in California, and will be in place by the fall of 2017.
The move is being undertaken “to stay ahead of the challenge posed by Iran and North Korea’s development of longer-range ballistic missile capabilities,” Hagel said. “North Korea in particular has recently made advances in its capabilities and has engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations,” including its third nuclear test, its display of a new mobile ICBM last year and its saber-rattling with South Korea.
The secretary also announced plans to deploy an additional anti-missile radar system in Japan to bolster the AN/TPY-2 radar the country already has.
The $1 billion to fund the extra interceptors will be budgeted in the upcoming fiscal 2014 budget, said James Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy. Congress has also mandated that the Pentagon evaluate three more potential locations — two on the East Coast — for more interceptor sites.
Speaking after Hagel fielded a handful of questions, Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said that one of the reasons the United States is speeding up deployment of its domestic ballistic missile defenses was the sighting last spring of North Korean mobile KN-08 missiles.
While “there were mixed accounts of whether they were real or fake missiles,” and despite the fact that the KN-08 has never been tested in flight, he said, “We believe the KN-08 probably does have the range to reach the United States.”
Winnefeld went further, warning that “we not only intend to put the mechanics in place to deny any potential North Korean objectives to launch a missile at the United States, but also to impose costs upon them if they do.”
He also took the opportunity to take a shot at North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be in his late 20s, saying that “we believe that this young lad ought to be deterred by that and if he’s not, we’ll be ready.”
In response to questions about where the planned second radar for Japan will come from, a Pentagon spokesperson emailed to explain that “the AN/TPY-2 discussed by the Secretary is a non-deployed AN/TPY-2 radar within the current inventory.” Radar maker Raytheon has built eight TPY-2 radars, with two more being built.
The original plan had been to buy 18 radars, but the 2013 budget request slashed that number to 11.
Raytheon’s Jim Bedingfield told Defense News on Thursday that if the program isn’t funded for the 12th system, the production line would start “going cold” in mid-2014, and that just one more order would only delay that by six to eight months.
In addition to Japan, the radar system has been deployed to Israel, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. In total, 11 radars have been put under contract, with another one slated to be funded if the continuing resolution passed by the House of Representatives on March 6 survives the Senate intact.