Trump will visit Pentagon to talk missile defense

Vandenberg Air Force base
Missile Defense Agency Missile interceptor test at Vandenberg Air Force base

18 January, 2019

A new strategy says a layer of sensors in space must quickly detect, track and ultimately defeat incoming missiles. The US' goal was "simple", Trump said, and included gaining the ability to "detect and destroy" any incoming missile, whether ballistic, cruise or hypersonic.

For years, USA missile defenses have focused exclusively on combating threats from rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran.

Trump joined a number of his top generals Thursday at the Pentagon to deliver an address in support of his initiative, which sought to install detection systems in outer space as a means to counter new weapons being developed by top military rivals Russian Federation and China, as well as burgeoning missile powers Iran and North Korea.

Top among the concerns highlighted in the review is the speed at which rivals, particularly China and Russian Federation, are pushing ahead with hypersonic missiles, which can thwart traditional defence systems. The senior Trump administration official suggested it would at least be mentioned.

Undertaken at the direction of the White House, the missile defense review was supposed to be released almost a year ago, but the Pentagon spent months rewriting it to address regional missile threats in addition to those posed by rogue nations.

The United States has 44 ground-based missile interceptors stationed at Fort Greeley in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California created to intercept North Korean missiles that might be headed towards the United States.

The document will give an indication of the Pentagon's priorities and overall strategy. However, Griffin hinted that funding for a new layer of space-based sensors, something Congress itself has requested, will be notably present.

One way of doing this could be by adding a new type of missile to F-35 stealth fighters patrolling near a suspected launch site, such as in a hypothetical conflict with North Korea, the MDA said.

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The full review is due to be released by the Defense Department on Thursday.

The strategy singles out North Korea as a continuing and "extraordinary threat", seven months after Trump declared the threat posed by Pyongyang had been eliminated. In his final items, Trump said he would "remove bureaucratic obstacles to speed up the acquisition and deployment of these technologies" and "insist on fair burden-sharing with our allies".

"The US will now adjust its posture to defend against any missile strikes including cruise and hypersonic missiles", Trump told the military audience. The U.S. military could also put high-powered lasers on drones flying off the Korean coasts that could shoot that nation's rockets. The U.S. military could also take some of the Aegis missile defense test systems in Hawaii and make them operational to better protect the state. The United States operates ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California.

"We are not interested in keeping pace with current threats", Shanahan said.

The Pentagon will encourage allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East to develop their own air and missile defense platforms that can operate together with American systems.

"Our nation does not seek adversaries, but we do not ignore them, either", Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Thursday, noting that a missile defense strategy requires offense.

New missile defenses will not be designed fully for countering the large missile forces of China or Russian Federation and current nuclear deterrence strategy will seek to hold those missiles at risk. Though the US and North Korea are conducting peace talks, the two have remained wary of one another's missile capabilities and Trump's hardline stance against Iran has only inflamed tensions between the USA and the Middle East's largest missile power.

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