The country’s ground-based missile defense system, with its 26 missiles at Fort Greely, is capable of defending the U.S. not only from North Korea, but from Iran, too, says Missile Defense Agency Director James Syring.
“The (Defense Intelligence Agency) assessment is Iran is capable of flight-testing an ICBM in 2015,” Syring told a Senate panel today, adding that the assessment did not include a statement on the likelihood of that occurring.
Sophisticated Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles are likely to include decoys and countermeasures along with the warhead. Syring says to better detect the target, his agency needs a new radar system. In response to questions from Sen. Dan Sullivan, Syring said he expects to choose an Alaska location for the Long-Range Discrimination Radar in the next few months.
“North Korea and Iran are continuing to progress, in terms of not just the numbers of ICBMs they may have but the complexity of what those threats may represent to us,” Syring said. “And that’s why the budget request this year is so important that we get the radar built.”
The agency has considered placing the radar on Shemya, near the end of the Aleutian Chain, or at Clear, off the Parks Highway, southwest of Fairbanks. Sullivan asked about the system’s electrical needs and whether Clear would next extra electrical generation. Syring said he couldn’t discuss it publicly due to competitive concerns among the contractors bidding on the project.
Fort Greely in the coming years is slated to receive 14 more defensive missiles, for a total of 40. Syring says it’s possible even more missiles could be based there.
“Extra capacity in Fort Greely does exist and that would be assessed on how we see the numbers, in terms of threats from North Korea progressing. And certainly that would be an option available to the secretary of defense, to use that capability,” he said.
That would have to be weighed against the value of placing another radar system on the East Coast to defend against an Iranian threat, he said.