The Asia-Pacific region is important for the United States because it is the part of the world where some of the US allies are located. It is also the region in which missile threats are going through the roof, and the United States need to protect the country as well as its allies from any possible attack. Trump’s administration is well aware that they would not be able to intercept every missile, but it is feasible to assemble an integrated defense for protection from countries such as North Korea and China.
So far, every administration, including this one has claimed that the missile defense architecture is ever-changing. It is something that keeps evolving, and it is a process that will never be finished. While Obama did everything to implement such defense in Europe and has done so successfully, Asia-Pacific region has been neglected, and it is up to Trump and the presidents who come after him to fix this issue.
Missile Threats Increase
North Korea has developed the nuclear program, and their ballistic missiles are considered to be their only defense. This way, they are keeping the USA at bay and with such weapons they can target any of the nearby US allies such as Japan or South Korea. The North Korean leader also claimed that the rockets could reach the States. Last year, North Korea introduced a new missile with faster launch times and better mobility. Meanwhile, this country is working on the development of submarine-launched ballistic missiles as well as an ICBM capability to threaten the US.
However, North Korea is not the only country in the region that could harm the United States. Another, much larger threat comes from China and their far more sophisticated long-range missile systems. Furthermore, China has created large numbers of short and medium-range missiles for regional use. This means, once again, that one of the US allies can be attacked and defeated. What is concerning is that the number of missile tests is growing in the region and the USA needs to do something about it.
Firstly, America needs to accept the fact that the threat is real. The country needs to do everything in its power to improve and further develop the missile defense in the region. This means that new capabilities need to be created and a large number of interceptors and sensors are supposed to be built. Currently, there are several sensors in the Asia-Pacific which would prevent any possible attacks, but their number needs to be increased. They are listed below:
• PAVE PAWS Early Warning Radar – Taiwan
• TPY-2 radars – Japan
• Aegis SPY-1 radars – afloat
• Sea-based X-band radar
The interceptors can be divided into three groups – Patriot, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Standard Missile-3. There are also large numbers of inexpensive and lower-tier levels of defense, which we are not going to mention here in greater details. All you have to know is that they exist, but let’s check out these interceptors, one by one.
The Patriot family of missile defenses is intended to strike down short-range ballistic missiles. Such weapons are located in the United States, but they are also built in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Although Patriot family has been enhanced significantly in the recent years, there are still numerous problems that plague such systems. For instance, they cannot provide a full 360-degree coverage, and their blind spots are their weakness.
THAAD is arguably the best missile defense systems implemented by the USA. It is positioned in South Korea despite China’s disagreement and objections. There is one in Guam as well. When combined with the Patriot, THAAD is relentless. They cover more territory and can knock down missiles on a larger area. At this point, THAAD looks good, but the US Army has a goal to improve it even further.
Aegis Weapons System
Last but not least, we need to mention seven Aegis BMD-capable destroyers deployed by the United States. In addition, there are four Japanese BMD capable ships at Yokosuka. The ships are equipped with the radar which can track any missile launched by the enemy, and besides the radar, various sensors are used as well. This system is intended for longer range threats. Also, the SM-3 IIA interceptor will be deployed in 2018, the result of the cooperation between Japan and the United States. These interceptors are a feat of engineering, and they have improved sensors and are a lot faster than any other interceptors.
United States Allies
The American allies in the Asia-Pacific need to band together and create a defensive wall. While in Europe, NATO exists, there is no such thing in this region of Asia, and more cooperative efforts are required in order to improve the capability of the defensive weapons and cut down the costs as much as possible.
So far, the American allies have been doing the right thing. Both Japan and South Korea have invested a lot of money in missile defenses. For instance, just two years ago, Japan spent about $2.1 billion whereas the South Koreans increased the budget for the Korean Air and Missile Defense system to $1.43 billion last year. Meanwhile, Japan is also distributing money to the enhancement and deployment of Aegis Ashore in their country. On top of that, they are upgrading their destroyers and basically every aspect of their missile defense system. The same goes for South Korea.
However, these two countries are not the only allies of the Americans in the region. Australia is also working on first two destroyers equipped with Aegis, and this would improve the overall missile defense significantly. With the allies investing from their budgets, the costs for the US would be reduced, or the money intended for such purpose could be redirected. Let’s not forget that the USA also has the Ground-based interceptors in the Pacific states of Alaska and California. Currently, the biggest issue is protecting Hawaii, which is in the outer reach of the United States territory.
What the US should do
As you can see, improving the defensive line in the Asia-Pacific region is a must and the efforts need to be made. While this all costs a lot of money, it is the money well spent. In order to create better Asia-Pacific missile defense system, there are several rules America needs to abide by. They need to purchase state of the art weapons which are currently available and to further invest in their development, plus, the priority should be architecture.
Furthermore, launch systems which are more adaptable and flexible need to be acquired because this would reduce costs. All aspects of the BMDS can be increased with a space-sensor layer. In that way, both regional and homeland missile defenses would be enhanced significantly. Last but not least, the United States Army needs to use the money for nine THAAD batteries, and THAAD interceptor needs to be improved to have more range.
Obama administration didn’t do much in order to improve missile defense in this region. Trump has held the office for almost year and a half now, and if he wants to secure the country, his administration needs to address this issue. While it is not the most burning problem America is facing, something needs to be done about it. The most important thing is that the improvements are constantly happening.