US worries about outdated missile shield against North Korean ICBM

Air Force General Glen VanHerck said the US needs to deploy a new defense shield by 2028 to keep up with North Korea’s ballistic missile program.

In this photo provided by the Missile Defense Agency, the lead ground-based Interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in a “salvo” engagement test of an unarmed missile target Monday, March 25, 2019. (Missile Defense Agency via AP)

“Based on available intelligence, I am comfortable with the current defensive capabilities of the United States . However, I believe that North Korea will be able to surpass the combat capabilities of its forces,” said General Glen VanHerck. , commander of the US military’s Northern Command, said during a hearing before the US Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday.

General VanHerck said that the US needs to deploy at least 20 missiles in the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) system by 2028 to counter North Korea’s growing weapons program, as demonstrated by the test. Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on March 24.

He also stressed the importance of maintaining the combat readiness of the Mid-Ground Defense System (GMD) until the NGI is commissioned. The US is deploying 44 rounds of combat ammunition in the GMD system at Greely bases in Alaska and Vanderberg in California.

“North Korea’s pace of development and weapons capabilities make it very important to fund the program to extend the ballistic missile shield,” General VanHerck said, noting that the ship-launched ballistic missile program submarines and ICBMs are signs that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is actively investing in modern weapons systems.

General VanHerck’s testimony came just a day after North Korea launched the Hwasong-17, the country’s first ICBM model since 2017. This missile reached an altitude of more than 6,200 km and traveled a distance of nearly 1,100 km. before falling into the Sea of Japan. Experts say that if launched according to a standard orbit, the Hwasong-17 can reach a range of 13,000 km, enough to cover all targets in the US territory.

Ankit Panda, an expert on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace Studies in the US, said the size and layout of the engines show that the Hwasong-17 missile can generate force. propelling up to 160 tons, carrying many nuclear warheads.

This missile also applies the design of a multiple independently attack revolving vehicle (MIRV) system design, along with a series of decoys to increase the power to penetrate the enemy’s missile defense system.

The MIRV design is said to be able to threaten the US missile defense system, especially when the GMD shield still has a fatal weakness, has not shown the necessary accuracy and reliability in the tests.

In a total of 17 interception tests between 1996 and 2017, GMD had only 9 successes, or 53%. The US Government Auditing Agency (GAO) in 2017 also confirmed that US missile interceptor tests would not be able to be conducted in the rain, showing that the shield could not work in all weather conditions.

To ensure target destruction, the US military is forced to launch at least 4 projectiles to block an enemy warhead. Therefore, with 44 interceptors, the current US missile shield can only prevent a maximum of 11 warheads from falling at the same time.

Experts warn that the Hwasong-17 is capable of carrying 3-4 warheads, or a combination of real warheads and decoys, so when North Korea fires several ICBMs at the same time, the US defense system has the ability to overload capacity.

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