SPACECOM to Track North Korean Missiles with Early Warning System

Following a barrage of North Korean missile tests that included multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) launches, the US Space Force is working to further improve its early warning system, hoping to step up surveillance.

US Space Command head General James Dickinson outlined the newest branch of the US military’s plans in the Indo-Pacific, where it set up its first-ever operational component command unit last week while addressing a webinar held by the Washington-based Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies on Tuesday.

General Dickinson underscored that the branch is looking for ways to integrate a sensor architecture that will give the US as much warning as possible in terms of any type of missile activity out of North Korea.

He also noted that the branch seeks ways to incorporate commercial sensors into the new warning system, noting that Washington would share information with regional partners and allies and that it already maintains coordination relationships with the broader military.

The new Space Force unit appears largely focused on China though Dickinson’s latest remarks show Pyongyang also appears to be a priority for the new unit that will operate under INDOPACOM, the American command responsible for East Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Noting that given that Beijing is Washington’s “pacing threat” and top competitor, Chance Saltzman, the Chief of Space Operations B, declared ahead of the unit’s creation that it’s essential that they stand up the service component at INDOPACOM.

Exceeding by far the previous record of 25 ballistic missiles in 2019, North Korea launched an annual record of 63 ballistic missiles since the start of the year. Since September, Pyongyang fired over 30 ballistic missiles and has also conducted its 10th ICBM test of the year on Nov. 18.

Pyongyang’s flurry of retaliatory missile tests- including two ICBM launches this month alone – was triggered by the recent US-led joint drills with South Korea and Japan.

Tensions in the region were additionally raised by the continued periodic visits to Taiwan of US lawmakers that have enraged Beijing, which sees the island as part of its sovereign territory.

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