After several months of escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea, Hawaiian leaders have begun to brief residents on emergency plans for a potential nuclear attack. But while the state’s congressional delegation continues to place trust in Alaskan-based interceptors to shoot down an incoming missile, defense experts warn the existing system may be inadequate.

The United States today relies on ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California along with a floating sea-based radar system to detect and destroy missiles headed toward Hawaii, but the chief of U.S. Pacific Command told Congress in April these defenses “can be overwhelmed” and “could stand strengthening.”

With North Korea’s successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in July, calls to fortify Hawaii’s missile defense have grown more urgent.

The Pentagon is examining an expansion to the missile defense structure based in Hawaii and state lawmakers earlier this month held a closed-door meeting to review plans for dealing with nuclear warfare. Congress also passed several measures to shore up Hawaiian missile defense in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, including plans to build an advanced missile-tracking radar in the state. The billion-dollar radar, however, will not be ready until 2023.

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