Aegis coming ashore at PMRF

MANA — Dignitaries on Monday dedicated the site of a new missile testing complex that is expected to be up and running within the next couple years at the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

“There are people in the world who would harm and kill us,” U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said. “We are not testing to kill, but to defend. … I pray the product of testing will not be used, but will be a deterrent for those who would harm us.”

The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex will be built on two locations at the Westside base as a test and evaluation center in the development of the Phased Adaptive Approach’s second phase.

President Barrack Obama in September 2009 said the plan is to provide flexible, adaptable ballistic missile defense for the nation’s deployed troops, friends and allies, a PMRF news release states.

Dignitaries participating in the event included Inouye; Capt. Nicholas Mongillo, PMRF commander; Rear Admiral Dixon Smith, commander of Navy Region Hawai‘i and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific; and Rear Admiral Joseph Horn, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense program executive.

Horn, in congratulating PMRF for being a first-rate range and being considered the “Jewel of the Pacific,” said Aegis Ashore, simply put, is cutting the deckhouse off a ship and moving it on land.

He alluded to Rear Admiral Wayne Meyer, regarded as the “Father of Aegis,” who often said, “Build a little, test a little and learn a lot.”

Tom Clements, PMRF public affairs officer, and Ralph Scott, public affairs for the Missile Defense Agency, said a contractor should be selected by the end of 2011 and the test complex should be ready some time in 2013.

Following initial certification, the AAMDTC will remain at PMRF as a Missile Defense Agency test asset and will be operated by the Missile Defense Agency, the PMRF release states.

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, named after the legendary shield of Zeus, is deployed on 81 serving naval ships around the globe with more than 25 additional Aegis-equipped ships planned or under contract, states an article on the Defense Industry Daily website.

Smith said there are six naval Aegis-equipped ships home-ported at Pearl Harbor on O‘ahu.

The sea-based element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System under development by the Missile Defense Agency integrates with submarines, surface ships as well as the U.S. Army and Air Force.

Smith said there are plans to install the BMDS in Romania in 2015 and in Poland in 2018, those systems having gone through testing at PMRF.

The test complex at PMRF is critical to the development of the Aegis Ashore capability, the PMRF release states. The complex is essential for verifying requirements and validating design capability.

Deployment of Aegis Ashore to Europe will greatly enhance coverage of defense of Europe as part of the overall BMDS, officials said.

Tracing the history of the U.S. Navy on Kaua‘i, Smith said the Navy has a deep respect for the history of the island with a face to the future.

“Barking Sands has been on the edge of history since it became a runway in 1921,” Smith said. “In 1941, the Navy expanded it to become an airstrip and in 1956, the first missile launch started the legacy of testing.”

Shielded from the sun by tent canopies, kupuna Aletha Kaohi melded the Hawaiian culture and her background of growing up “just a couple of ridges down” into a solemn ceremony.

Kaohi said the landscape of Hawai‘i changed after the landing of Capt. James Cook and people are still arriving.

“If we are to be one with unity, we need to bridge the differences,” Kaohi said. “There is a need to be pono for balance.”

In calling to the “one god by many different names (from the different cultures),” the ancestral spirits, Kaohi offered thanksgiving to honor and respect.

An umeke or ipu, bowl or calabash, a dried gourd painted in a style unique to West Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, would be the ho‘okupu to the contractor when selected. 

Kaohi said the gourd had the shape of Kaua‘i and the paintings showed a clear melding of PMRF into the landscape of Kaua‘i, the cover representing the sky, the gourd contents before being removed, the cosmos with its countless stars.

“The umeke will be the container of mana, or spirit,” Kaohi said. “Look to within and get rid of the ‘opala, or rubbish.”

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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