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If North Korea Attacked

A successful May test of the United States long-range missile interceptor program, designed to destroy a possible North Korean missile before it could hit the United States, was called a “critical milestone” by then-Missile Defense Director Vice Adm. Jim Syring. But since then North Korea has tested a missile that could possibly threaten Alaska.

The United States Is Making Progress:

  • “We’re confident that we have the capability to defend the nation against ballistic missile threats” — Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency.
  • The America has a “real capability” to defend the country and “we are in a relatively advantageous position” to the threats from North Korea — Tom Karako, senior fellow on the Missile Defense Project at CSIS.
  • Our missile defenses could “absolutely work” — Bruce Bennett, Senior International Defense Researcher at the RAND Corporation.

But So Is North Korea:

  • “We continually underestimate” North Korea’s capabilities — Joshua Pollack, Editor of The Nonproliferation Review.
  • We are “falling behind in defensive” ability — Adm. Stavridis.
  • Karako said, North Korea’s advancing its offensive capabilities faster than we are advancing our defenses to counter them.

The Worrying Realities:

  • The missile-defense system has a 55% success rate over its lifetime, per Reuters & hasn’t faced a real threat. “I have very little confidence that it can work because it’s so technologically challenging…” Pollack said. Plus it was deployed “in a hurry in 2004 before it was really ready,” and “it doesn’t perform well in tests.” And “even if it did it could be overcome.”
  • The America missile defense math works now, but barely. Pollack and Karako did some missile math separately and both came to the same conclusion; we have just enough underground missile interceptors (36) to block the maximum number of missiles we are aware North Korea could launch (6), assuming we launch 6 interceptors per missile to effectively block both decoys & a real nuclear warhead. He “wouldn’t want to count on” the system, noting the fact that we have to launch several interceptors per missile shows “there’s not a lot of confidence it will work,” Pollack said.

The Pentagon is currently conducting a Ballistic Missile Defense Review, which it expects to be done with by the year’s end, per Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza, Defense Department spokesperson. The AP reported there is a plan to have 44 underground missile interceptors by the end of the year.

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