The Suspected North Korean Intercontinental Ballistics Missile
In the skies near Japan, F15s are on the hunt for a suspected North Korean Intercontinental Ballistics Missile (ICBM), capturing what could be the last seconds in flight. This rare video, released by Japan’s military, shows a burning object resembling a ballistic missile boost rocket reentering the atmosphere, flying at hypersonic speeds for about an hour.
If not intercepted, an ICBM launched from North Korea would take slightly more than 30 minutes to reach the mainland United States, with the West Coast having more time to react than the East Coast. Chinese scientists simulated a nuclear attack, and according to the South China Morning Post, the simulation shows 33 minutes from the time of launch until the time of impact.
The Challenge of Missile Defense
For years, US leaders have reassured the public and America’s allies that missile defense systems can keep them safe. However, virtually all ballistic missiles travel at more than five times the speed of sound, sometimes even faster. Hitting a warhead has been described as hitting a bullet with a bullet, which is a challenging task. A report last year found that America’s missile defense system, the nation’s best and perhaps only line of defense, only succeeds about half the time.
The Reality of US Missile Defense Capabilities
A US Missile Defense Agency report last year stated that the missile defense system demonstrated a measured capability to defend the United States, deployed forces, and allies from a rogue nation’s missile attack. That rogue nation, North Korea, has a fast-growing arsenal. Kim Jong-un’s military is mass-producing ICBMs, knowing that a barrage of ballistic missiles could be too much for the US to shoot down.
The Threat of Missiles from China and Russia
While the US missile defense system might be able to defend against an attack from a rogue state like North Korea, as long as the program doesn’t get too big, or maybe Iran, the situation is different when it comes to China and Russia. The size of their arsenals means that if they launched nuclear missiles, just like if the US launched nuclear missiles at them, there would be no way to shoot anything close to all of them down. This is the definition of mutually assured destruction.
Conclusion: The Need for Continued Vigilance
The reality of the US missile defense system’s capabilities against a barrage of ballistic missiles from North Korea or larger arsenals from China and Russia is sobering. While the system might provide some level of protection, it is far from foolproof. As a result, it is crucial for the United States and its allies to remain vigilant in monitoring and countering the growing threats posed by these nations, as well as continuing to improve and develop missile defense technologies to better protect against potential attacks.