The Defense Department is weighing a plan to deploy F-35 fighters to hover on the outskirts of North Korea airspace and neutralize intercontinental ballistic missiles shortly after launch, Reuters reports.
News of the plan, developed as part of a six-month study on intercepting North Korean ICBMs and conceived as a near-term option, comes as President Donald Trump meets with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Vietnam on critical questions surrounding Pyonyang’s nuclear and missile testing programs.
The Pentagon has been toying with novel missile defense strategies for years now: In January, the DoD’s Missile Defense Review presented a milieu of potential options worth further examination, Defense One reported, ranging from drone-based lasers and orbiting missile platforms to re-configuring the F-35 for missile defense missions, Task and Purpose reports.
Concern over U.S. missile defenses has grown with the escalating threat from North Korea. Two years ago North Korea conducted about a dozen missile tests, some with multiple rockets, including the launch of a suspected inter-continental ballistic missile that could hit the U.S. mainland. They also tested a purported hydrogen bomb.
Military officials say the F-35 option is the one they want to test first because it could use existing military hardware and potentially be operational sooner than other strategies, and at a relatively low cost. At the same time Pentagon leadership says the tests may reveal a new interceptor is needed, or that the F-35 may only have a role in detecting the just-launched missile and not necessarily also shoot it down.
Air-to-air missiles like those made by Raytheon Co would only have an estimated 200 seconds to hit a ballistic missile before reaching an altitude where the air is too thin to maneuver. Given that it would take an F-35 approximately 50-60 seconds to detect, lock onto and launch an air-to-air missile, Postol said, the jet would need to be very close to the ballistic missile to take it out.
This is good news as it shows President Trump is talking peace but also preparing for further back stabbing by North Korea.
Chris “Badger” Thomas is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.