Alabama-built missiles to defend against potential North Korean nuclear attacks

By CHRISTOPHER HARRESS | Alabama Media Group, Birmingham (Tribune News Service) | Published: February 14, 2017

If North Korea ever develops a nuclear-equipped ballistic missile with the capability of hitting the United States, it will be Alabama-built weaponry that will blow it out of the sky.

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump was given his first taste of the exceptionally complex diplomatic enigma that is North Korea. The secretive nation that borders China to the north, and that has declared on numerous occasions over the last 60 years that the U.S. is its enemy, tested another ballistic missile Sunday by firing it 500 kilometers (310 miles) in to the sea.

The fear for the United States and its allies in South East Asia is that North Korea would use its ballistic missiles to launch nuclear warheads, which it has also been developing in recent years, according to intelligence reports.

The delivery systems that would help shoot down the weapons are partially developed at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, while many of the missiles are fully manufactured at the military industrial site.

Major missiles developer Raytheon currently builds the SM-3 and the SM-6 missiles, both specially designed to stop ballistic missiles using only kinetic energy. A regular missile would also stop the ballistic missile reaching its target, but any explosive could set off the nuclear warhead in the air.

Both missiles use the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, which can be used on land or at sea.

Additionally, the Theater High Altitude Air Defense, or THAAD, is another missile launch system developed at the north Alabama site. It also uses kinetic energy to engage targets. The U.S. military currently has one based in Guam, on the fringes of the Philippine Sea, while South Korea is also interested in buying the system.

During his news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Trump said that "North Korea is a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly." However, while China and Russia both condemned the launch by North Korea, neither country is keen on Washington D.C. increasing its sphere of influence in South East Asia where the U.S. currently has in excess of 80,000 troops.

Trump's new United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley also made it clear that the launches would not be tolerated. "We call on all members of the Security Council to use every available resource to make it clear to the North Korean regime -- and its enablers -- that these launches are unacceptable."

"It is time to hold North Korea accountable -- not with our words, but with our actions," she said.


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