Earlier this week, congressional defense committees approved a measure rerouting more than $400 million into the national missile defense program, a direct response to the threat posed by North Korea’s continued missile tests. The money will go toward accelerating Navy upgrades enabling them to launch SM-III interceptors — designed to counter ICBMs in the midcourse stage — and increasing the number of Ground-Based Midcourse Defense sites at Fort Greely, Alaska, from 32 to 42. Currently, GMD is the best option for countering North Korean ICBMs due to its range and relative accuracy.
If the defense appropriations subcommittee signs off on the measure, it will be the first large-scale missile defense budget increase in the U.S. since Donald Trump’s inauguration. The U.S. isn’t the only nation boosting its missile defense programs in response to escalating global tensions surrounding North Korea. The Australian Navy announced that nine new ships set to be built in 2020 will feature the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system. The U.S. Navy currently uses Aegis, which increases mobility and expands an SM-III interceptor’s horizontal range, in ships deployed in the Sea of Japan and Pacific Ocean. Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the plans would help counter rogue states developing missiles that pose a threat to global security. “Recent events in our region,” Turnbull continued, “have proven that Australia’s future frigates must be equipped to defend Australia.”
Russia, too, has ramped up preparations for a missile attack. Yesterday, Colonel-General Alexander Golovko announced the Russian military would deploy a new network of Voronezh radar stations by 2019 and ten similar systems by 2020. The specifics of the 2020 upgrade is undisclosed, though both programs will improve Russia’s missile-detection capability.
Such widespread preparation suggests many nations have little confidence that the North Korean threat is going away soon.