PMRF Enhanced Capability EIS

Michael Jones [email protected] 17 April 1998

     The 10 April 1998 Federal Register has the U.S. Navy's Notice of Public
Hearing on its "Pacific Missile Range Facility Enhanced Capability" Draft
Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).  The public hearings are on 25 April
in Waimea on Kauai and on 28 April in Honolulu on Oahu.  Requests for a 
copy of the DEIS should be sent to:

               Ms. Vida Mossman
               Pacific Missile Range Facility
               P.O. Box 128
               Kekaha, Hawaii  96752-0128

The PMRF public affairs phone number is (808) 335-4740.  Written comments 
should be sent to the same address; the deadline for written comments is
26 May 1998.

     I have made a quick pass through the Pacific Missile Range Facility 
(PMRF) Enhanced Capability DEIS (dated 3 April 1998) and summarize below 
some important aspects of the proposed theater missile defense (TMD) tests.
The DEIS assumes that current activities at PMRF (primarily Navy training 
exercises) will continue and examines impacts of various proposed actions 
(e.g. new missile launch sites, new or improved radars, optical sensors, 
communications, and other instrumentation) needed for a variety of TMD 
tests associated with PMRF.  PMRF was excluded from consideration as a site
for TMD tests in the 1994 TMD Extended Test Range EIS (see below) but the
DEIS notes that Congress has mandated that PMRF be used as the primary test
range for tests of the Navy's theater missile defense system. (Senate
Report 103-321 on the 1995 Defense Appropriations Bill notes PMRF's
capabilities and concludes, "Based on these unique assets and PMRF's
demonstrated record of success, the Committee directs that the Pacific
missile range facility [PMRF] shall be designated the primary test range
for completion of Navy lower tier and upper tier missile flight tests.")
     The DEIS indicates that launch and/or instrumentation sites are being 
considered at the following locations:
  (1) PMRF on Kauai
  (2) Niihau
  (3) Tern Island in French Frigate Shoals
  (4) North and East Island, part Johnston Atoll
  (5) ocean areas within and outside U.S. territorial waters

 PMRF on Kauai
     Three potential new launch sites are proposed on PMRF.  These sites 
seem to be primarily for interceptors but some could be used for target 
missiles.  The DEIS notes that missile launches from PMRF for TMD tests 
would require extension of the restrictive easement on State of Hawaii lands
adjacent to PMRF through the year 2030.  This easement was initially set 
up to allow the U.S. Government to clear the ground hazard area (GHA) near 
the launch pads before Strategic Target System (STARS) and Vandal launches 
from 1994 through the end of 2002.  The GHA radii are 10,000 feet for STARS
and 6,000 feet for Vandal.  However, the primary reason for TMD tests at 
PMRF is to test interceptors on Navy ships located within 200 km of PMRF; 
such tests do not require launches of large target missiles like STARS or
of interceptors from PMRF.  Furthermore, I was told at the 23 June 1997 
scoping meeting that the Vandal missiles were nearly gone.

     The Proposed Action involves other changes in areas in the western 
end of Kauai controlled by PMRF.  Two new ordnance storage magazines 
would be added to the ten already present at Kamokala Caves.  These are said
to be needed to store rocket motors to be used in TMD tests (up to 12 per
year).  New radars and communications equipment would be added at Kokee.
New and/or upgraded radars and associated equipment would be installed at 
Makaha Ridge.

     Major changes are being considered on the privately-owned island of 
Niihau west of Kauai.  The north end of Niihau currently has a 
remotely-operated surveillance radar, an electronic warfare site, and 
multiple electronic warfare portable simulator sites.  The Proposed 
Action has launch and instrumentation sites both on the north end and on
the south end of Niihau.  These launch sites could be used for either target
or interceptor missiles and have ground hazard areas of radius 20,000 feet
associated with them.  In addition, five potential sites for a tethered
Aerostat (small blimp attached to the ground by cables) are identified.  
A 6000-foot runway would also be built in the south end of the island.

 Tern Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)
     A launch and possible instrumentation site is indicated at the northeast
end of the island.  A rail launcher would be installed at this site to 
launch target missiles.  The ground hazard area radius of 2,000 feet just 
barely excludes the US Fish and Wildlife buildings in the southwest end 
of the island.  An MATSS ship containing instrumentation would be moored 
at the southwest end of the island.  Tern Island is about 700 km from Kauai.

 North and East Islands in the Johnston Atoll NWR
     Potential launch sites for target missiles are indicated on both North 
Island and on East Island in Johnston Atoll.  The GHA radii are 8,000 
feet for North Island and 10,000 feet for East Island.  These GHA's just 
barely exclude Johnston Island, site of chemical weapons storage and the 
JACADS incinerator.  In addition, Sand Island is being considered as a 
potential instrumentation site.  Johnston Atoll is about 1200 km from 
Kauai so it would require a missile like the Hera to deliver targets to 
regions near PMRF.

 Air-drop and sea-based launches
     In addition to launch sites on land, target missile launches are being
considered from special ships (MATSS and SLP) and from aircraft.

 Related information

     There have been previous analyses of Theater Missile Defense testing at
other sites that have some relevance for the proposed tests associated
with PMRF.  The 1994 Theater Missile Defense Extended Test Range EIS has 
details about missiles to be used and launch sites in or near the four 
areas evaluated -- White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Eglin AFB in 
Florida, Western Range (Vandenberg AFB and vicinity) in California, and 
Kwajalein Missile Range in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.  The 
following statement from section 2.5, titled Alternatives Eliminated from 
Further Consideration, indicates why PMRF was not considered in the 1994 

 "The Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii, and Wallops Flight
  Facility, Virginia, were eliminated because of the lack of the full range
  of land-based instrumentation sites to observe intercepts and inadequate
  land area for interceptor deployment or for placement of instrumentation
  that would have to be brought in from another range."

     An EIS (Theater Missile Defense Extended Test Range Supplemental
Environmental Impact Statement -- Eglin Gulf Test Range) evaluating similar
tests associated with Eglin AFB in Florida and involving possible launch 
sites in the Florida Keys was released on 6 February 1998.  A copy of this
new EIS and the 1994 TMD Extended Test Range EIS documents are in the 
Reference Section of the Manoa Public Library, 2716 Woodlawn Drive in
Honolulu (adjacent to the UH Inst. for Astronomy).  Questions about the 1998
Eglin EIS can be sent via E-mail to [email protected] or via regular mail 
to Ms. Linda Ninh, 46 OG/OGM-TMD, 205 West D Ave., Suite 241, Eglin AFB, 
Florida 32578-6866.  There is also a web site at

However, the deadline for public comments on the 1998 Eglin EIS was
3 April 1998.

     I have submitted comments on the 1998 Eglin EIS and intend to submit 
comments on the PMRF Enhanced Capability DEIS.  I am happy to try to answer
questions and provide information but you should contact PMRF directly (at
the address or phone number above) to get "official" information.  There are
PMRF web sites at

that have some useful background information.  There is also an article 
(with impressive color photos) specifically dealing with proposed testing 
at PMRF in the 24 March 1997 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.
The June 1997 issue of Environment Hawaii has an article discussing
possible impacts in wildlife refuges.  Finally, for background on the
STARS program, see my article "ABM, START, and STARS program in Hawaii"
in the Jan. 1997 issue of Physics and Society.

Michael Jones | phone 808 956 2932 Physics Dept. | FAX 808 956 2930 Univ. of Hawaii | Email [email protected] 2505 Correa Road | Honolulu, Hawaii 96822