Navy says ships with missile-defense capabilities are in U.S. ports
July 8, 2006
ARLINGTON, Va. — As North Korea threatens to test-fire more missiles, the Navy’s two ships in the Pacific capable of shooting down medium-range missiles are at port in the United States, Navy officials said.
The Navy has two cruisers in the Pacific Fleet equipped with SM-3 missiles, capable of shooting down medium-range ballistic missiles, but the ships are not in the vicinity of North Korea.
The USS Shiloh and USS Lake Erie are off California and Hawaii respectively, said Jon Yoshishige, a spokesman for Pacific Fleet.
“Since Japan is so close to [North] Korea, a missile from Hawaii could not get to an intercept point in time,” a Pentagon official said in a Thursday e-mail to Stars and Stripes.
The ships also are unable to shoot down long-range missiles, the official said. “SM-3 interceptors are designed to intercept short to medium-range missiles, not long-range missiles. The missile defense for long-range missiles are the interceptors located in Alaska and California,” the official said.
In June, the Navy dispatched two destroyers off the North Korean coast to detect and track any missile launch. The ships are the USS Curtis Wilbur and USS Fitzgerald, both forward-deployed to Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.
U.S. Northern Command believes it has all the sensors it needs in place at sea, on land and in space, said NORTHCOM spokesman Michael Kucharek.
“So for defense of the homeland I think we’re comfortable we’ve got the coverage we need,” Kucharek said on Thursday.
Asked why the Shiloh and Lake Erie were not closer to North Korea for the missile tests, he said, “If we looked at the trajectory of the missiles, none of them posed a threat to the United States or its territories.”
The Shiloh is slated to head to Yokosuka in August to replace the USS Chancellorsville. Recently, the Shiloh successfully shot down a target missile during testing off the Hawaiian Islands.
“Shiloh’s deployment builds upon the Long Range Surveillance and Tracking (LRS&T) capability already in place in the Western Pacific, with the capability to intercept short- and medium-range ballistic missiles using the SM-3 missile,” a Navy news release says.