On a warm spring day in 1983, President Ronald Reagan called for the launching of the “Star Wars” initiative. The intention was to defend the United States from a nuclear attack from the Soviets, which at that point in the Cold War could have come at any given moment. It never came, but neither did a surefire missile defense system. When a weapon is capable of killing millions with a single strike, the goal of any initiative must be perfection.
Fast forward 34 years and we still don’t have a measure with high confidence that can shoot down a North Korean ballistic nuclear missile. We have many ways of attempting to do so, but most of what we know is theoretical. We simply don’t have enough data to build the perfect shield around the nation and depending on how advanced the North Korean systems really are, we may need it to be perfect.
There are two ways to address this that the U.S. military is currently doing. The first is to collect as much data about their missiles as possible. It’s been quietly stipulated the reason we aren’t as adamant about the North Koreans halting their missile tests is that it gives us as much information as it gives them. Every launch they make, every computer we hack, and every bit of intelligence we can gather on their capabilities brings us closer to developing the surefire method everyone wants.
The other action by the military is testing methods of bringing these missiles down. Representative Duncan Hunter suggested last month the F-35 was capable of taking down a North Korean missile. Skeptics raised questions, but apparently his information was partially correct, according to DefenseOne:
Turns out the F-35 may be an ICBM buster after all, or at least be helpful toward that end. On Tuesday, Northrop Grumman called a small group of journalists to its offices in Linthicum, Maryland, to show the results of a 2014 experiment conducted with the Missile Defense Agency, or MDA.
The U.S. has no foolproof way to down a North Korean ICBM. Physics says the best opportunity comes during “boost phase,” as the rocket is leaving the launch pad. But DPRK anti-aircraft defenses make it difficult for the U.S. to get a weapon close enough to do any good. That’s why the Pentagon is looking at elaborate, futuristic concepts like arming drones with missile-killing lasers.
One important thing to note: If we do have the capabilities of taking down missiles 100% of the time, there’s very little chance anyone would know that, not even a Congressman. That’s the type of information that only a handful of people would possess. Contrary to popular belief, it’s also the type of information we wouldn’t want enemies to know. Better for them to continue down the path of developing weapons they can’t use against us than to focus on other weapon types.