By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Sunday, February 07, 2016 US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) released a statement condemning North Korea’s illegal rocket launch and highlighting the importance of modernizing and expanding America’s homeland missile defense system.
Senator Shelby said, “The North Korean regime continues to expand and improve its missile and nuclear programs. Yesterday’s launch underscores the critical importance of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. If North Korea ever foolishly decides to launch a missile at the United States, the GMD system will protect the American people and our homeland.”
According to original reporting by the Defense Industry Daily, the USA’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program uses land-based missiles to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in the middle of their flight, outside the atmosphere. The missiles are currently based at 2 sites in the USA: 4 at Vandenberg AFB in California, and 20 (eventually 26) at Fort Greely in Alaska.
The GMD system is designed to defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). It depends on tracking that begins in the boost phase, in order to allow true mid-course interception attempts in space. The GMD missiles must use data feeds from an assortment of long-range sensors, including satellites like SBIRS and DSP, some SPSS/BMEWS huge early-warning radars, and even the naval SBX radar.
All of this became more important after North Korea successfully launched a rocket to launch a satellite into orbit. Critics said that the test is really a disguised test of a long range ICBM, potentially with the ability to deliver a weapons payload all the way to the continental United States. North Korea has nuclear weapons and recently claimed that they had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb. International authorities had ordered North Korea not to launch a rocket.
In Saturday’s presidential debate on ABC, US Senator Ted Cruz warned, “One of the real risks of this launch, North Korea wants to launch a satellite, and one of the greatest risks of the satellite is they would place a nuclear device in the satellite. As it would orbit around the Earth, and as it got over the United States they would detonate that nuclear weapon and set of what’s called an EMP, and electromagnetic pulse which could take down the entire electrical grid on the Eastern seaboard, potentially killing millions.”
The United States bought five GMDs at a cost of $1.5 billion in 2012 and another five GMDs at a cost of $1.5 billion in 2013; but only one in 2014 and none in 2015. Saturday’s test combined with the lifting of sanctions against Iran; likely means that plans to purchase and deploy 44 GMDs will proceed. Counting the radar systems and development costs the GMD programs has cost $44 billion to this point.
Senator Richard Shelby was elected to the Senate in 1986 after previously serving Alabama in the House of Representatives and the State legislature.