During the Presidential campaign then-Senator Obama promised his liberal base that he would not deploy what he called "unproven" missile defense systems, though he did not specify which of our various systems he deemed "unproven." More recently, his administration announced plans to cut $1.2 Billion from the Pentagon's Missile Defense Budget. See this story.
What a difference a crazy North Korean dictator (shown above on the left) can make !
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Department of Defense is "fortifying" Hawaii in the event of a missile attack by North Korea. The fortifications include a floating mobile anti-missile radar and anti-missile interceptors.
The Los Angeles Times provides more detail on the type of interceptors deployed. Apparently there are three categories of interceptor: (1) theater interceptors, which intercept a missile in the early boost phase, while it is still under power; (2) mid course interceptors, which can intercept a missile after the boost phase, during ascent or descent; and (3) terminal phase interceptors, which intercept a missile as it descends vertically toward its target. According to the Times, the U.S. is deploying the third category of interceptors to Hawaii. Moreover, the U.S. also deploys mid-course interceptors in Alaska and California that could intercept a missile aimed at Hawaii.
Finally, other reports suggest that the U.S. and Japan could also deploy ships off the coast of North Korea capable of intercepting a missile in the boost phase. Indeed, Japan successfully tested such a capability in late 2007, according to the AFP, using a U.S.-designed SM-3 interceptor, the same weapon the U.S. used in February, 2008 to destroy an American Sattelite that was in low earth orbit. All three systems are now deployed to interdict a North Korean launch, if necessary.
Here is an AFP story on Japan's successful test.
Let's hope that the North Koreans come to their senses and decline to launch such a missile or, if they do, that it implodes and falls harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean, like some of their previous launches.
At the same time, let's also remember that, as President Obama now apparently realizes, the deployment of "unproven" weapons is sometime prudent. Indeed, such deployments can sometimes turn the tide of history. Exhibit A would would be Britain's deployment of an "unproven" system, known as "radar," during the Battle of Britain. The so-called "Chain Home" system, which the German Luftwaffe did not entirely understand, allowed the British the detect incoming German bombers (and, later, V-1 Rockets) in time to vector interceptors to meet them. (A surviving Chain Home tower is pictured above.) Most of these fighters were also "unproven," based as they were on new-fangled "monoplane" fighters, compared to the "tried and true" biplanes deployed in the mid-1930s. One such fighter "unproven" in 1939, the Hawker Hurricaine, is pictured above. The plane pictured above (photo from Wikipedia Commons) flew 49 sorties in the Battle of Britain and shot down three enemy aircraft.