Aegis destroyers keep eye on sky for North rocket

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Aegis destroyers keep eye on sky for North rocket

With the imminent launch of a North Korean long-range rocket, South Korea, Japan and the United States are set to mobilize their antiballistic missile systems, deploying Aegis-equipped warships to waters surrounding the Korean Peninsula.

The Aegis destroyer is the only weapon with sophisticated enough technology to capture the exact moment of launch, monitor the trajectory of a rocket and intercept it when the rocket deviates from its orbit.

“The Aegis ship is equipped with a SPY-1 radar system, which has four antennas and provides 360-degree coverage,” said Shin In-gyun, head of the Korea Defense Network. “It is superior to those used in the Army or Navy.”

Military sources told the JoongAng Ilbo that the South Korean Navy is preparing to send the 7,600-ton destroyer King Sejong to the western Yellow Sea, near the Byeonsan Coast.

The King Sejong Aegis warship was used in 2009 when the North fired a long-range missile called the Taepodong-2. In 2010, the destroyer shot down a ballistic missile at a joint drill with U.S. Navy ships in Hawaii.

This time, the destroyer will track the moment of blastoff and the falling of the first-stage rocket and then track the target’s flight. The newly-built, King Sejong-class guided missile destroyer Yulgok Yi I will also be dispatched to the southern sea of the country below Jeju Island, along with the King Sejong. As the King Sejong is the first of its type in the Korean fleet, all destroyers of the same type built subsequently are labeled “King Sejong-class.”

Other sources said the United States will send five or six Aegis-equipped cruisers from the Seventh Fleet to the Yellow Sea, Okinawa and waters near the Philippines. The U.S. Aegis destroyers are reportedly loaded with SM-3 interceptor missiles, sources said, in preparation for the rocket failing and heading toward land.

“Although an Aegis destroyer can work alone, they may be deployed in pairs to each sea,” Shin said.

The U.S. Navy already deployed its most advanced mobile radar system SBX-1 last month to the Pacific Ocean from Pearl Harbor, a senior U.S. military official told CNN. Atop a floating platform, the SBX-1 radar can locate a target up to 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) off, double the detection of an Aegis destroyer.

Japan, which refused a request from North Korea to come and see the launch in mid-April, already mobilized four Aegis-equipped warships - two near Okinawa, one near the East Sea and the rest near Tokyo. The Japanese Navy has prepared to deploy their PAC-3 surface-to-air missile defense system as well.

Amidst rising international condemnations against the North’s satellite launch, the Japanese cabinet meeting yesterday determined to extend its sanctions against the regime for one more year, prohibiting all trade with the North. It’s the eighth time that the Japanese government extended its economic sanctions on North Korea since July 2006 when the North launched its first ballistic missile, Taepodong-1.

By Jeong Yong-soo, Kim Hee-jin []
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