WASHINGTON — The Pentagon announced Friday it will spend $1 billion to add 14 interceptors to a West Coast-based missile defense system, responding to what it called faster-than-anticipated North Korean progress on nuclear weapons and missiles.
In announcing the decision, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is determined to ensure protection of the U.S. homeland and stay ahead of the North Korean missile threat. He acknowledged that the interceptors already in place to defend against potential North Korean missile launches have had poor test performances.
“We will strengthen our homeland defense, maintain our commitment to our allies and partners, and make clear to the world that the United States stands firm against aggression,” Hagel told a Pentagon news conference.
The Pentagon intends to add the 14 interceptors to 26 already in place at Fort Greely, Alaska. That will expand the system’s ability to shoot down long-range missiles in flight before they could reach U.S. territory.
In addition to those at Greely, the U.S. also has four missile interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Hagel said the 14 extras should be in place by September 2017 but will not be deployed until they have been adequately tested.