Proposed sites for Guam missile defense system to be approved this year
Updated: May 22
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Racing against time to augment Guam's shield against threats from rogue nations, the Missile Defense Agency is anticipated to approve the proposed sites for a 360-degree integrated air and missile defense system in late fiscal 2023, according to the Government Accountability Office.
“As adversary offensive missile capabilities evolve, (the Department of Defense) projects the current defense on Guam to be inadequate,” GAO stated in a report released on May 18.
Due to its proximity to China and North Korea, “Guam is vulnerable to a potential attack,” GAO said, citing heightened tensions in the region.
The MDA on May 5 opened the public comment period for its notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for the missile defense architecture, which will be installed on 19 proposed sites on Navy-owned properties. Guam residents have until June 27 to submit comments.
“The system would be able to defend Guam a full 360 degrees around the entirety of the island,” GAO said. “The 360-degree capability would be achieved by distributing/placing missile defense components, including a command and control center, radars, sensors, missile launchers, missile interceptors, and support facilities, at multiple locations around the island.”
While targeting the system to be deployed by 2027, the MDA has identified challenges in the site selection process including the limited land as well as high risk for seismic activity and typhoons that will be factored into the military construction design considerations.
“Officials mentioned another factor to consider for possible sites is adjacent areas should not be affected by missile defense components and activities,” GAO said. “For example, electromagnetic radiation from radars should not interfere with the surrounding air space and properties should be a sufficient distance away or barriers provided in the event of ordinance explosion.”
GAO said DOD has also noted environmental and cultural concerns that are being considered in undertaking the project.
“The 2022 Missile Defense Review states that the missile defense architecture for Guam will be commensurate with the island’s unique status as both an unequivocal part of the United States as well as a vital regional location,” GAO said.
Prior to the system’s full operations, the MDA plans to conduct multiple developmental and operational tests.
“Initial deployment of limited equipment is expected to occur in early fiscal year 2025 and completion of the system is scheduled for fiscal year 2029,” GAO said.
Currently, Guam’s defense consists of a single Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery and a single ship equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system that provides support on an as-needed basis.
GAO said the integrated components of the missile defense architecture would defend the island against simultaneous air and missile attacks.
"Military officials have emphasized the importance of Guam for maintaining stability in the region," GAO said. “The Guam defense systems would also employ open systems architecture—meaning adaptable systems—to enable the integration of future capabilities as sensors and weapons technologies evolve.”
“According to MDA, the acquisition strategy for the Defense of Guam mission architecture consists of leveraging existing Army and Navy programs, Army rapid capability prototype efforts, and a new program that includes integration of the Aegis Guam Weapon System. The strategy aims to provide the capability to meet warfighter requirements to fulfill the Defense of Guam mission," GAO said.
The agency is asking for more than $800 million to develop and begin constructing the missile defense architecture.
In January, the MDA awarded a half-a-billion-dollar contract to Lockheed Martin to develop Guam’s air and ground missile defense system, which is anticipated to be delivered in 2024.