Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, head of the Missile Defense Agency, told reporters last week that he is “very confident” that the nation’s fledgling ballistic missile defense system could shoot down the long-range ballistic missile North Korea appears on the verge of launching. The US currently has 11 interceptors in silos at Ft. Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg AFB, Calif., that could tackle an ICBM. MDA has tested the interceptors and has brought the system, including radars, satellites, and relays, to operational status at various times. Reuters news service quotes Obering, “From what I’ve seen from our testing from the last several years … and what I know about the system and its capabilities, I’m very confident.” (At least one sage former defense official is less sanguine.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.