Military eyes sites on Oahu for high-powered radar to defend against missile threats

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The federal government plans to build a powerful radar in Hawaii to better defend against ballistic missile threats.

The Missile Defense Agency will hold public meetings this week about the three locations proposed for the Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii.

One site that will be evaluated in the environmental impact statement is on state land next to the U.S. Air Force's Kaena Point Satellite Tracking Station. The other two locations are at the U.S. Army's Kahuku Training Area.

The project is required by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

"It can discriminate between a missile and any other kind of debris that may be falling, so as a result of that, we would have the best type of defense for the islands," said U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii).

Get more information on the plan by clicking here.

The Sea-Based X-Band Radar was also designed to discriminate between lethal threats and decoys.

Retired Rear Admiral Robert Girrier sees the value in the new radar's enhanced capabilities.

"It's different in that regard, in that we're looking at the installation of a permanent, persistent, 24/7 capability," said Girrier, who now serves as president of Pacific Forum, a foreign policy research institute. "It represents a significant upgrade to the overall U.S. ballistic missile defense system."

Foreign policy experts say recent developments with North Korea shouldn't stop the U.S. from boosting its homeland defense system.

"If you develop a capability that will defend against North Korea, then it's also defending against China or Russia or anyone else who today might be completely docile but who, a year from now, might turn out to be otherwise," said Ralph Cossa, president emeritus of Pacific Forum.

The site selection will be based on the environmental impact statement results, system performance and overall costs. If the project is implemented, the radar facility is expected to be operational by the end of 2023.

“While diplomatic talks with North Korea continue with the objective of denuclearizing North Korea, the nuclear threat to the people of Hawai?i remains," said U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard in a statement. "As such, we need to continue to strengthen our ability to defend Hawai’i against an incoming ballistic missile. The Homeland Defense Radar in Hawai‘i is necessary to improve the military’s ability to detect, follow, and target an incoming ballistic missile in order to intercept a threat before it reaches Hawai'i.”

The Missile Defense Agency will hold three open house meetings:

  • Tuesday at Sunset Beach Elementary
  • Wednesday at Keehi Lagoon Memorial Park
  • Thursday at Waianae High School

All of the meetings are scheduled to run from 6 to 9 p.m.

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