Missile Defense Soldiers Scan the Stratosphere
With the threat of ballistic missile launches by North Korea, the Army maintains Army-Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance systems, or AN/TPY-2, in Japan to keep a watchful eye on the skies above.
The responsibility falls to a small group of soldiers stationed in Kyogamisaki and Shariki, Japan. The radar sites are unique in that they provide regional defense for Japan while also significantly improving the defense of the United States.
The soldiers in these units operate high resolution, phased array, X-band radars designed and built specifically for the U.S. missile defense missions. The radars can perform air surveillance to very high altitudes and identify and track aerial targets, including incoming ballistic missiles. The radar also has the ability to differentiate between warheads or space debris.
The 10th Missile Defense Battery, located at the Shariki Communications Site, has been operational since 2006. This was the first AN/TPY-2 Radar installation in Japan and also the first new U.S. military installation to open there since the end of World War II.
The AN/TPY-2 radar is integrated with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system, and serves as its primary sensor. The radar's mission is to track the late stages of the missile course, enabling missiles fired by the system to intercept both outside the atmosphere and once a reentry vehicle enters the atmosphere.
The 14th Missile Defense Battery is the newest radar unit. Located at the Kyogamisaki Communications Site, it has been operational since October 2014. Since then, both units have been in the constant watch with recent events in the Korean peninsula.
Their mission is to pass highly accurate missile track data to sensor managers in the Air and Space Operations Center at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and sensor managers throughout the United States.
“We provide the strategic-level early warning for all ballistic missiles launched from North Korea that have the potential to impact the United States homeland,” said Army 1st Lt. Seth Bond, the 14th Missile Defense Battery executive officer.
The information received by the AN/TPY-2 radar is critical data.
Both units also works closely with the 100th Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Brigade based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, feeding data and cueing various radar sensors throughout U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Pacific Command.
The data collected is shared with other services and nations to provide early warning and detection of hostile missile launches as part of Pacom’s missile early warning architecture, which greatly enhances the defense of Pacom assets and the United States.
“This information cues the various sensors located throughout the Pacific to ensure any intercept vehicle will accurately engage the warhead,” Bond said.
Once a possible threat has been detected, either through space based, naval, or elevated sensors, soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command can either engage the threat or pass the engagement to an asset that is able to range the target.
“The 14th MDB has successfully tracked and processed all ballistic missile launches originating from North Korea,” Bond said. “The unit is extremely efficient and we provide updates to entities across [U.S. Army Garrison Japan], Pacom, Stratcom and [U.S. Northern Command].”
With the increase of threats from North Korea the soldiers from the 10th MDB and 14th MDB remain focused on being the nation’s first line of defense.