According to Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, U.S. Pacific Air Forces commander, the United States and its allies are prepared to use “rapid, lethal and overwhelming force,” against Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime, if necessary. His statement, which came at the tail end of ten hours of U.S. led fighter and bomber drills over the Korean peninsula, marks America’s postured response to North Korea’s latest ICBM test launch.
On Friday, North Korea conducted another test launch of their most advanced long-range missile, the Hwansong-14, which experts speculate may be capable of striking U.S. targets as far away as Boston or New York City, and almost certainly has the range required to strike targets on America’s West Coast. While Kim Jong Un has long claimed to have the capability of launching a strike on the U.S. mainland, this recent test has served as the first piece of evidence to suggest he may actually be able to make good on his threats. While Western experts have debated the true level of technological capability Kim’s regime truly possesses, even conservative estimates now claim he may have a reliable ICBM platform by the end of this year.
Since the test on Friday, the United States has launched a multi-faceted response to Kim Jong Un’s most recent provocation. Two B-1B Lancer Bombers, which are supersonic bomber platforms capable of reaching speeds in excess of MACH 1.2 and maneuver much like a fighter jet, were scrambled from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam before being joined by fighters hailing from both Japan and South Korea. The aircraft from each nation then conducted a ten-hour exercise in the region, as a clear show of force directed squarely at Kim.
The B-1B can carry a payload in excess of 75,000 pounds, meaning it can fire a whopping 24 cruise missiles, among other ordnance options. It can also use its on-board Synthetic Aperture Radar system to simultaneously engage multiple moving targets, making it uniquely suited as a means by which to target and destroy mobile missile launch platforms like those seen in North Korean propaganda photos.
The two B-1Bs, four South Korean F-15s, and two Japanese F-2s conducted a number of exercises, including enemy intercepts and formation functions, intended to improve the diverse military assets’ “combined capabilities” and “strengthening the long-standing military-to-military relationships in the region,” the Pentagon said.
If the presence of two of the most powerful bombers in the world accompanied by a coalition of international fighters zooming through the skies in Kim’s backyard didn’t get the point across, the U.S. military also conducted another successful test of their THAAD missile defense systems on Sunday, demonstrating America’s ability to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles before they reach their intended targets.
“The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Army soldiers of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade from Fort Bliss, Texas, conducted a successful missile defense test today using the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system,” the Missile Defense Agency said in a statement on Sunday. The missile launched somewhere in the Pacific, was intercepted by a THAAD emplacement in Kodiak Alaska.
“In addition to successfully intercepting the target, the data collected will allow MDA to enhance the THAAD weapon system, our modeling and simulation capabilities, and our ability to stay ahead of the evolving threat,” MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said.
According to General O’Shaughnessy, these responses are not intended to escalate tensions in the region, but rather as a demonstration of American resolve to support our allies and defend our interests, should the worst occur.
“Diplomacy remains the lead. However, we have a responsibility to our allies and our nation to showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario,” O’Shaughnessy said.
Combined images courtesy of Wikipedia