March 8 (UPI) -- The Missile Defense Agency is again considering a radar defense array in Hawaii, with two sites under consideration, after previously dropping plans to build it because of adverse public reaction.
The proposed Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii, which MDA is accepting public comment on through April 12, would face North Korea and have properties similar to the Long-Range Discrimination Radar in Alaska, a facility largely completed with initial operating plans scheduled for the end of 2021.
A $1.9 billion cost for the potential Hawaii facility was included in the 2017 defense bill, which called for a radar array to defend Hawaii and quickly identify missile threats as lethal or non-lethal.
This time, two sites are under consideration, at the Army's Kahuku Training Area on Oahu and at the southern end of the Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai island.
Input in 2018, "scoping meetings" for three sites on Hawaii's Oahu island brought considerable public objection, with concerns about overdevelopment, an additional military facility on an island already hosting thousands of service personnel, and cultural concerns by Native Hawaiians.
The project was complicated by recent Chinese and Russian advances in hypersonic missiles and low-flying, radar-evading cruise missiles, as well as Pentagon plans to involve outer space as a defense platform, according to officials.
The most recent defense bill includes an authorization for the MDA to continue Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii development and siting efforts.
The array would include several buildings, each 85 feet tall and emitting high-intensity electrical radiation, and restricted airspace arcs would fan out over the ocean to a distance of 9 miles.
Site consideration comes as the Defense Department reduced the current funding for a radar array on Hawaii to zero, citing a shift in priorities.
Although the MDA may find an appropriate location for its radar array, it may be eliminated in what MDA Vice Admiral Jon Hill called, in 2020 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, the "need for a persistent space-based global sensor capability."