Pentagon Evaluates US West Coast Missile Defence Sites Amidst North Korea Threat

| December 3 , 2017 , 14:21 IST

In the wake of the latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test conducted by North Korea on November 29, despite increased sanctions from the international community, the US is evaluating its anti-missile defences on the West Coast.

The US Pentagon, which is tasked with protecting the country from missile attacks, is scouting the West Coast for suitable areas to set up new anti-missile defences, two Congressmen said to media.

The defences on the US's West Coast would likely include Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-ballistic missiles, which is a ground-based regional missile defence system that is designed to shoot down short-range, medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.  

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While there are two THAAD systems deployed in South Korea and the Guam in the Pacific the US has 7 other THAAD systems, which are highly mobile and take only weeks to install.  

Congressman Mike Rogers, who is a part of the US's House Armed Services Committee and chairs the Strategic Forces Subcommittee which oversees missile defence, said that the Missile Defence Agency (MDA), was aiming to install extra defences at West Coast sites.

"It's just a matter of the location, and the MDA making a recommendation as to which site meets their criteria for location, but also the environmental impact," Rogers said to Reuters.

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Although Rogers did not specify the exact locations that are in consideration for the missile sites, he said that several sites are "competing" for the missile defence installations.

The continental US is primarily protected by the Ground-based Midcourse Defence system (GMD) in Alaska and California as well as the Aegis system deployed aboard US Navy ships, however, the THAAD system has a far higher testing success rate than the GMD.

Previously, in July, the US successfully tested the THAAD missile defence by shooting down a simulated incoming intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM).

The ICBM tested on November 29 by North Korea can reportedly fly over 13,000 km (8,080 miles), which would place Washington within the target range. However, the nation would still need to master critical missile technology such as re-entry, terminal stage guidance, and warhead activation, South Korea said.