The Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska will soon be testing interceptor missiles for the United States military in Pasagshak. The Missile Defense Agency announced Thursday that it is awarding a contract potentially worth $80-million to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation to test missile interceptors.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD missile, is designed to destroy short- and intermediate-range enemy missiles in their terminal phase, when they’re closing in on their target. It’s separate from the mid-course system, which includes interceptor missiles based at Fort Greeley, which is designed to destroy intercontinental missiles while still in space.
Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerrol Friend says more activity at the launch complex will help the island’s economy through jobs, purchases and even tourism.
“They buy from a lot of local businesses. A lot more than a lot of people will see. They say not a lot of money comes in, but they do a lot of business with a lot of local people. From shops to contractors to electricians, security people. It’s all local people who get those jobs,” Mayor Friend said.
“And when the people come in, they’re doing tourism. Rocket scientists from out there that come to town and then they go see the bears and sightseeing tours and lot of stuff. I believe, personally, that it’s a really good thing for Kodiak.”
AAC launched missile targets from Kodiak under contract to the MDA before, but the Kodiak spaceport has not had a launch since 2014 when a rocket exploded during the launch of a hypersonic Army weapon. THAAD is an anti-missile missile, designed to destroy short and medium-range missiles.
As Alaska Aerospace CEO Craig Campbell explains, this contract will be very different than previous launches at the Kodiak launch site, which used the facility’s launch pads and control centers.
“That was done all by contractors. They’d stay at the Narrow Cape Lodge. They’d stay in hotels,” Campbell said. “This is much more of a mobile system, so we’re going to put in a life support area where soldiers can actually live and operate as if they were deployed into real life conditions to utilize the system.”
Campbell says the corporation will have to extend a gravel road and install new gravel pads, but MDA will bring in its own launch vehicles for the THAAD missiles.
“So we’re not going to use the launch structure that we have out there,” he said, adding, “their system is designed very differently than what we would use out of the launch facility.”
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says the MDA is expecting to do two test launches next year.
“There’s so much going on in missile defense in Alaska. And so much new spending. And so much kind of relevance in terms of our position in the globe and what we represent,” Sullivan told APRN’s Liz Ruskin when reached between flights at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. “And the threat is only increasing. So I think we’re going to see and we’re going to press for continued, continued focus on Alaska as the cornerstone of missile.”
The contract is for an indefinite number of launches and the work will be done over several years. The THAAD has already been actively deployed with the U.S. military, and South Korea is negotiating to host THAAD launchers to counter the missile threat from North Korea.
APRN’s Liz Ruskin and KMXT’s Kayla Desroches and Jay Barrett contributed to this story.