US Military to Deploy Missile Defense Battery Amid Looming Budget Cuts

Activity at North Korean Launch Center
Sohae Launch Facility, North Korea, Nov. 26, 2012: This satellite image of the Sohae Launch Facility on Nov. 26, 2012 shows a marked increase in activity at North Korea's Sohae (West Sea) Satellite Launch Station. This activity is consistent with launch preparations as witnessed prior to the failed April 13, 2012 launch of the Unha 3 (i.e., Universe or Galaxy 3) space launch vehicle (SLV) carrying the Kwangmyongsong 3 (i.e., Bright Lodestar 3). Given the observed level of activity noted of a new tent, trucks, people and portable fuel/oxidizer tanks, should North Korea desire, it could possibly conduct its fifth satellite launch event during the next three weeks (e.g., by mid-December 2012). (Image credit: DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Defense Department plans to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile interceptor system to Guam in the coming weeks to defend the U.S. territory against a possible North Korean missile attack, the Pentagon announced Wednesday (April 3).

In October, the THAAD system had its first-ever intercept of a medium-range missile. In recent weeks, North Korea has renounced the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, closed its borders to South Korean workers, severed a diplomatic hotline with Seoul and threatened to launch missiles at U.S. targets.

Pyongyang has been steadily escalating its war rhetoric since a satellite launch in December and nuclear test in February drew widespread condemnation and tighter sanctions.

"The United States continues to urge the North Korean leadership to cease provocative threats and choose the path of peace by complying with its international obligations," a Pentagon release said.

The THAAD system includes a truck-mounted launcher, interceptor missiles, an AN/TPY-2 tracking radar and an integrated fire control system. Lockheed Martin is the THAAD prime contractor.

"Our government is doing the right thing for the right reasons at the right time," Riki Ellison, chairman and founder of Missile DefenseAdvocacy Alliance, wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hinted during a speech at the National Defense University here April 3 that the Missile Defense Agency was among those agencies that may need to be scaled back.

"Despite good efforts and intentions, it is still not clear that every option has been exercised or considered to pare back the world's largest back-office," he said, according to a copy of the speech. "Prior efficiency campaigns yielded substantial savings from the services, and some from the DoD-elements known as the ‘Fourth Estate,’ which consists, as you all know, of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Combatant Commands and the defense agencies and field activities — the Missile Defense Agency as well as those that provide health care, intelligence, and contracting support. We need to relook at funding for these activities, which won't be easy."

He did not offer further details later in the speech.

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Editor-in-Chief, Sightline Media

Mike Gruss is a veteran defense reporter and Editor-in-Chief of Sightline Media Group, which includes Army Times, Air Force Times, Dense News, Military Times and Navy Times. From 2013 to 2016, Mike served as a Senior Staff Writer for SpaceNews covering national security space programs and military space policy in the U.S. Congress. Mike earned a bachelor's degree in English and American Studies from Miami University and has previously wrote for the Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Indiana and the Virginian-Pilot in Virginia before joining SpaceNews. Prior to joining Sightline in 2017, he was a senior editor of FedTech magazine covering technology in federal government. You can see Mike's latest project on Twitter.