US Army appoints new Asia-Pacific missile command chief

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 7:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 10:08pm

The US Army’s new missile defence commander for the Asia-Pacific region said his priorities are readiness, being able to respond to contingencies and working with partner countries in the region.

The region is so large it’s important to leverage partnerships with other nations, Brigadier General Sean Gainey said.

Gainey assumed control of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defence Command during a ceremony at Fort Shafter in Honolulu on Friday.

The command oversees missile defence radars and Patriot anti-missile batteries in Japan and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, or Thaad, system in Guam.

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Thaad is a land-based system that includes a truck-mounted launcher, tracking radar, interceptor missiles and an integrated fire control system.

Gainey said his new command helps these various units work together.

“It all links in to an integrated network where sensors can pick up threat activity and pass that information within our command and we can make sure the right user has it,” Gainey said in an interview.

The military deployed Thaad to Guam in 2013 to counter the threat of North Korean missiles.

Recently, Washington and Seoul announced plans to deploy a Thaad system in South Korea.

They began their formal discussions on the Thaad deployment after North Korea conducted a fourth nuclear test and carried about a long-range rocket launch.

North Korea called the planned missile deployment a provocation that it says is only aimed at bolstering US military hegemony in the region.

China suspects the system would help US radars track its missiles. Russia also opposes the deployment.

US and South Korean officials have said the Thaad system only targets North Korea, not China or anyone else.

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Gainey succeeds Brigadier General Eric Sanchez, who will become the commanding general of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

He comes to Hawaii having previously commanded a Patriot missile defence battery, battalion and brigade. He also has experience as head of army air and missile defences in Europe.

General Robert Brown, the commander of US Army Pacific, hailed Gainey as the right person to take over from Sanchez.

“Sean Gainey has an extraordinary foundation of experience doing one tough job after another, building a reputation for hard work and tremendous skill of doing the job right,” Brown said.