Trump announces new missile defense plan with focus on sensors in space

US President Donald Trump speaks following the ceremonial swearing-in of James Mattis as secretary of defense

President Donald Trump visited the Pentagon Thursday where he revealed a new missile defense plan he said will be the "best anywhere in the world".

The Pentagon's two-year Missile Defense Review, made public as Trump spoke, calls for improving and adapting existing defenses to improve their capabilities against missiles, both cruise and hypersonic missiles, along with relocating and surging mobile defenses and building new weapons rapidly. Though the US and North Korea are conducting peace talks, the two have remained wary of one another's missile capabilities and Trump's hardline stance against Iran has only inflamed tensions between the USA and the Middle East's largest missile power.

But the Pentagon's new strategy makes clear that its plan for a more aggressive space-based missile defence system is aimed at protecting against existing threats from North Korea and Iran and countering advanced weapon systems such as the hypersonic missiles being developed by China and Russian Federation. And he said the announcement Trump was expected to make on Thursday represented America's violating the spirit of missile disarmament.

These technologies could help detect an enemy missile launch sooner and shoot it down in space, or possibly even as the missile is launching. "We will terminate any missile launches from hostile powers ... regardless of missile type or geographic origin", Trump said.

Furthermore, Trump said that the United States would "recognise that space is a new warfighting domain, with the Space Force leading the way".

Above all, the Pentagon is looking at new defenses the United States could employ against the missile threat posed by North Korea, ideally by downing missiles shortly after launch in their boost phase.

President Donald Trump has called for the development of a space-based missile defense program as part of the United States's first comprehensive missile review in almost a decade, the 2019 Missile Defense Review.

The Missile Defence Agency (MDA), which conducted the review, said it would study the feasibility of creating a space-based interceptor system, in which an orbiting craft of some sort would be equipped with missiles that could destroy an incoming warhead while it was in space.

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Asked about the implications of the new strategy for Trump's efforts to improve relations with Russian Federation and strike better trade relations with China, the administration official said that the U.S. capabilities are purely defensive and that the USA has been very candid with Moscow and Beijing about its missile defence posture.

Insisting that US allies bear a "fair" share of defense spending. This means, in part, finding new ways to protect American forces and allies in Europe and Asia from the cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles. But the senior Trump administration official suggested it would at least be mentioned.

It comes as North Korea and Iran make advances in ballistic missile production, and as Russian Federation and China press forward with sophisticated cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles that potentially threaten the security of USA forces and allies in Europe and Asia.

Patrick Shanahan, acting defense secretary, said the Pentagon plans to leverage advanced technology to stay ahead of growing foreign missile threats. Lampooned during the Reagan years for its high price tag and questionable effectiveness, missile defense now enjoys far broader support in Congress, particularly since North Korea tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile in 2017.

In a report earlier this week that singled out the hypersonic threat, the Pentagon said China's military was "on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world".

The 2019 Missile Defense Review, published Thursday, specifically identifies Russia, China, Iran and North Korea as "Current and Emerging Missile Threats to the American Homeland".

"We gathered together to outline the steps that we must take to upgrade and modernise America's missile defence..."

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