HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Missile Defense Agency is now also eyeing Kauai as a potential site for its planned $1.9 billion high powered ballistic missile radar.
As mandated by Congress, there were previously three sites being studied for the radar.
Two sites are at the U.S. Army’s Kahuku Training Area, and on Kuaokala Ridge at Kaena point, which is mostly state land adjacent to the U.S. Air Force Kaena Point Satellite Tracking Station.
The fourth potential site is at the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands on Kauai’s west coast.
The flat facing radar would be 80 to 90 feet tall and about 50 feet wide.
The site would be 50 to 80 acres.
“In coordination with INDOPACOM, MDA is currently revisiting the viability of fielding the Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii on Department of Defense property at PMRF," Missile Defense Agency Team Lead public affairs officer Heather Reed Cavaliere said, in an email to Hawaii News Now.
The Missile Defense Agency says it expects to pick a suitable site in March-April 2020.
“If a suitable site at PMRF is identified, it will be incorporated into the HDR-H EIS for full analysis along with existing candidate sites on O’ahu,” said Cavaliere.
“We are in conversation with MDA on the suitability of PMRF as a possible HDR-H site. If deemed viable, we expect PMRF to be included in the overall EIS effort,” said Captain Tim Young, commanding officer of Pacific Missile Range Facility in a statement to Hawaii News Now.
U.S. Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) said there are many advantages to having the radar at PMRF.
“We have to have the highest possible capability to distinguish threats and potential threats from just normal activity way over the horizon. This radar is the most advanced one to do that,” he said.
Case says the military had initial concerns at PMRF, but believes those have been resolved.
“What MDA was concerned about was whether the location of the radar at the Kauai site interfered the existing operation at that site,” Case said.
Puanani Rogers of Kauai was arrested while protesting PMRF in the 90′s and is against a radar on Kauai.
“Not supportive because I don’t know how bad it’s going to be,” she said.
“That’s my concern. Is it going to cause any harm to us to our aina,” added Rogers.
Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami was notified by the military of the PMRF site.
“It is our understanding that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency has been conducting preliminary studies to determine whether there is a suitable site on PMRF for a high-powered ballistic missile defense radar as mandated by Congress," Kawakami said, in a statement.
“PMRF has not yet been included in the MDA’s Environmental Impact Statement for the project, therefore we do not have enough information on how a potential radar could affect our island’s environment and community. We look forward to discussions with MDA officials and will continue to follow the development of MDA’s studies and public outreach opportunities should PMRF be officially included in the project’s EIS.”
The timeline for the project has been delayed.
The military expects construction in 2023 rather than completion that year because of topography challenges at the three previously proposed locations on Oahu.
There are also cultural and historic sites at each location including the Mokaena heiau at Kuokala Ridge at Kaena Point and World War II-era sites at the Kahuku Training Area.
The Missile Defense Agency also determined that one its Kahuku sites called “KTA2” had significant cost, schedule and mission impacts to its existing Navy Research Laboratory facility so it’s no longer considered a suitable site. Construction for the radar is expected to last three to five years.
Both a state lawmaker and a community activist previously told HNN that protests were being planned because of concerns over Hawaiian cultural sites, but they didn’t have details.
The Department of Defense believes a radar should be built in the Pacific to improve missile tracking and help discriminate between real missiles and decoys.
“Since 2017, North Korea completed several tests of ballistic missiles with ranges deemed capable of reaching Hawaii. Once built, the HDR-H will provide enhanced capability and efficiency to the Missile Defense System against such emerging threats resulting in increased protection for the state of Hawaii,” said Cavaliere.
The Missile Defense Agency says construction of the radar facilities is anticipated to take 3 to 5 years to complete. When completed, it would add roughly 130 military, contractor and related jobs.