12 July 2017

News Story: Hawaii in the crosshairs - The North Korean ICBM threat [Commentary]

CGI of an Aegis Ashore complex
By: Mike Rogers

In the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Navy achieved complete strategic surprise at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In a matter of hours, four U.S. battleships were sunk, over a dozen other vessels were damaged and more than 2,400 American service members were killed. Such strategic surprise would not be achieved against the United States for nearly 60 years, when al-Qaida struck New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001. Later investigations found a litany of American operational, intelligence and bureaucratic failures that contributed to the Japanese success in Hawaii. 

Hawaii was a natural target for the Japanese — an incredible naval base with the bulk of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at anchor, supporting infrastructure and airfields. Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto hoped to cripple the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor and prevent any American interference in Japanese expansionism in the Asian theater. 

As history shows, while they succeeded in attacking Pearl Harbor, their ultimate goal was unsuccessful. 

Today, Hawaii finds itself yet again in the crosshairs of a potential adversary. Except this time, it is not an ambush. We know the adversary, we know the intentions, we know the capabilities, and most importantly we have the tools and capabilities to render the adversary's aims neutral. 

North Korea is rapidly developing a ballistic missile capability that will, if the current trajectory continues, place Hawaii well within striking range. It is easy to dismiss Pyongyang’s efforts as amateurish and unsophisticated based on recent launch failures, but to do so would be naive and dangerous. This is literal rocket science. From every success and failure, North Korea’s scientists learn, improve and refine its capabilities. Remember, the United States’ own early testing efforts were halting at best, with missiles barely leaving the launch pads, toppling over and exploding, or just not igniting at all.  

Dismissing North Korea's program on its failures risks the same blindness that led to Pearl Harbor. “They can’t possibly reach Honolulu” rings true, until they can and they do. 

Read the full story at DefenseNews