Michigan one of 3 possible sites for intercept missile facility

NOW: Michigan one of 3 possible sites for intercept missile facility


North Korea now has intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching anywhere in the United States. To make sure we’re protected, a multi-billion dollar ballistic missile interceptor facility could be built in southwest Michigan.

The interceptor missiles would shoot down incoming missiles mid-air.

“You’re talking about a bullet hitting a bullet somewhere in space," Lieutenant Colonel Steven Wilson said. “It’s absolutely amazing.”

Lt. Colonel Wilson, the Garrison Commander at Fort Custer, is hoping the Pentagon brings ground based interceptor missiles capable of shooting down incoming missiles in mid-air to southwest Michigan.

“They looked at 457 sites in 19 states and they narrowed it down to 3," Lt. Col. Wilson said.

Fort Custer, just outside Battle Creek, is one of the finalists for a $3.6 billion continental interceptor site that could house up to 60 missiles.

“Our location makes us an excellent choice," Lt. Col. Wilson said.

Lt. Col. Wilson took ABC57 on a tour of the facility that’s already home to the Michigan National Guard.

”Something of this magnitude is an absolute game changer for this installation and it makes Fort Custer and Southwest Michigan a national strategic asset and that’s something to be proud of," Lt. Col. Wilson said.

“You can’t really imagine a better site for it," U.S. Representative Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph., said.

Congressman Upton is one of the many lawmakers supporting this project in Washington.

How big of a threat is North Korea?

"They are a threat," Upton said. "They are very close to marrying a nuclear warhead with an ICBM. The leader in North Korea, he’s not backing down. And I don’t think anyone can predict that he won’t send up some type of nuclear warhead.”

“I think we need to be prepared," Jim Burnham said.

Burnham, a retiree, lives near Fort Custer.

He and his wife were on vacation in Hawaii two weeks ago when emergency officials mistakenly issued a warning about an inbound missile saying “Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

They felt helpless and feared the worst.

“It was scary but it was almost surreal," Burnham said. “My wife said ‘You know should we call the kids?’ I said ‘Let’s wait this thing out.’ So we just kind of looked out the window and waited for the flash.”

Thankfully that flash never came.

“We have to be ready for that," Upton said.

Congressman Upton says it would take at least three years to turn a 1000 acre corner of Fort Custer into an interceptor site.

But the Union of Concerned Scientists calls it a waste of money saying there are already similar sites in California and Alaska that cover the entire US. They said the Missile Defense Agency “continues to struggle to get the basic…technology to work reliably.”

However, Upton says that’s no reason to kill the project.

“We’ve got better technology than anybody else. Of course it’ll continue to be refined and get better," Upton said.

While some say the missile facility could put a bullseye on southwest Michigan for terrorists or incoming missiles, Burnham says it's well worth the risk.

“I don’t think it would be a target but I’d rather be on the offensive than standing there looking out the window with no bullets in my gun," Burnham said. “It would be nice to know that you at least had some ability to defend yourself.”

The other two sites being considered are in New York and Ohio.

Congressman Upton says a decision from the pentagon could come as early as this month.

The project would have a huge economic impact on the region with construction expected to bring up to 600 direct jobs on site and another 2,000 indirect jobs supporting construction that would add nearly $200 million to the local economy each year.

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