Military leaders, community debate merits of high-powered ballistic missile radar on Oahu

Published: Jan. 9, 2020 at 5:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Military leaders are talking about the need for a permanent, high-powered ballistic missile radar on Oahu to see threats to Hawaii and our nation.

But there’s concern from residents who would live nearby.

It’s called the Homeland Defense Radar and it’s aimed at enhancing the ballistic missile sensing system.

The project is mandated by law and on Thursday, military leaders were at the state Capitol to talk about threats to Hawaii and the nation and why the new radar is needed.

“They are proliferating and the enemy is not going to wait,” said Commander Richard “Scott” McGowan, assistant to the director to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command at Missile Defense Agency.

The Missile Defense Agency is studying three proposed sites for a $1.5 billion high powered radar site. It’s a project mandated by law.

[Read more: Military eyes sites on Oahu for high-powered radar to defend against missile threats]

Two locations are at the U.S. Army's Kahuku Training Area and the other is on state land next to the U.S. Air Force's Kaena Point Satellite Tracking Station.

The Missile Defense Agency wants to build a flat facing radar that three times bigger than the one at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

They say it can discriminate between lethal threats and decoys

"We need to have a permanent basis, a complex radar system that can be able to detect that threat yet is permanently based where it doesn't have to go away," said McGowan.

But Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi says the Kahuku community is raising red flags especially after recent arrests over the wind farm project.

"I think we really have to get in front of this issue and talk about how the community feels about it. There's already initial concern because as we know the Kahuku community is a very small rural community and had to deal with challenges with developments specifically windfarms," she said.

The Missile Defense Agency hopes to have the radar built by 2023.

Other military leaders say they're listening to community concerns and committed to building sustainable and culturally sensitive projects.

“When we train we clean up. That may have not been done long ago. We’ve learned from those mistakes of the past and making sure we don’t perpetuate those mistakes,” said Major Gen. Suzy Vares-Lum, mobilization assistant to director of strategic plans and policy, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

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