Guam’s Homeland Security Adviser: 0.000001% Chance of Missile ‘Getting Through’ Defenses

Patrick Goodenough | August 15, 2017 | 4:23am EDT
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The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system is designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere. (Photo: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)

( – Reassuring the people of Guam that there has been no change in threat level, the territory’s homeland security adviser said Monday the chances of a North Korean missile hitting the island were minuscule.

“The chances of any missile or missiles getting through in my calculation is .000001 – that’s five zeros – percent,” George Charfauros said during a briefing at the offices of Guam Governor Eddie Calvo.

He cited the “various layers of defense” provided by the U.S. military and those of its Japanese and South Korean allies. 

Charfauros said the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) missile defense system, which has been stationed on Guam since 2013, “is ready to fire.”

“Residents and visitors are reminded to remain calm, even with the continued unconfirmed reports throughout the media,” he said in a statement, also released on Monday.

“Remember there is no change in threat level, we continue business as usual and know there are U.S. Department of Defense capabilities in place,” Charfauros added. “We continue communication with our federal and military partners and have not received official statement warranting any concern for imminent threat to Guam or the Marianas.”

(The Northern Marianas are a U.S. commonwealth of 15 islands, north of Guam.)

Media on Guam have highlighted August 15 as a key date: Last week the Korean military’s Strategic Force outlined a plan to fire four intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan, to land in waters near Guam. It said the strike plan would presented to Kim Jong-un by “mid-August” for his decision.

On Monday, the regime’s KCNA news agency reported that Kim has now discussed the plan with the Strategic Force, but gave no indication that a decision had been made one way or another.

During Monday’s briefing, Calvo pointed out that houses on Guam had been built with reinforcements to cope with natural disasters such as typhoons – “we’ve got the toughest building standards in the United States” – and that islanders’ and agencies’ disaster-preparedness skills had been honed.

Guam has a population of some 163,000 people, around 40 percent of them indigenous Chamorros and about another 25 percent Filipinos. There are about 6,000 military personnel stationed on the island, which is home to two strategic military bases – the Andersen Air Force base and Naval Base Guam.

‘Options available’

The THAAD system referred to by Charfauros comprises a tracking radar, a truck-mounted launcher, interceptor missiles and an integrated fire-control system. It is designed to track, intercept and destroy ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during final phase of flight.

A THAAD battery was installed this year in South Korea, and surface-to-air Patriot missile batteries are stationed in Japan. U.S., Japanese and South Korean navy warships are equipped with Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems.

Infographics depict BMD responses by the U.S. and its allies to an envisaged North Korean missile launch. (Graphics: US Missile Defense Agency)

Guam radio and television broadcaster KUAM reported that homeland security officials have released graphics showing how the layers of missile defense would respond, should the regime in Pyongyang make good on its threat to fire missiles towards the U.S. or its regional allies.

The first graphic illustrates trilateral (U.S.-South Korea-Japan) BMD cooperation: A South Korean destroyer detects and tracks a missile, U.S. early-warning satellites provide information to both allies, and a Japanese Aegis destroyer detects and intercepts the projectile. Should the incoming missile get past the ship’s system it could still be destroyed by land-based Patriot interceptors in Japan.

A second illustration is similar, but includes the recently-installed THAAD battery in South Korea into the mix.

According to the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, THAAD systems have passed 14 out of 14 tracking and interception tests since 2006. Since Aegis shipborne BMD testing began in 2002, the system has recorded 35 successful intercepts in 42 attempts, using standard SM-3 missiles, and several more using other missile variants.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, is in China Tuesday, the latest stop of a regional trip focused largely on the North Korean threat.

In Seoul on Monday, Dunford said it was his job and that of U.S. Forces Korea commander, Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, “to make sure our leadership has options available to them to properly respond” to North Korea’s actions.

In the event of an attack on or missile launch towards Guam, he said, President Trump would make the decision on how the U.S. would react – “and he will make that in the context of our alliance.”

Dunford said both the U.S. and South Korea want a peaceful solution to the crisis.

“What I would like to see is Kim Jong-un to commit to ceasing the development of nuclear weapons and ceasing the testing of ballistic missiles,” he said.

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