September 4, 2007: Japan
had to move one of its Patriot anti-missile launching sites because a 38 story
building going up nearby threatened to become an obstacle if any missiles were
fired. This all began earlier this year, when the Japanese became so concerned
about North Korean ballistic missiles, that they set up Patriot anti-missile
missile batteries inside Tokyo. This had to be done because the anti-missile
version of Patriot (the PAC 3) can only defend out to about twenty kilometers.
These launching sites were considered "emergency launching sites."
Normally, Patriot, or any
other type of anti-aircraft missile is positioned in a wide open space, to
avoid missiles colliding with anything but their intended targets. Missiles are
not really guided at take-off, just pointed in the general direction of the
target. The guidance system kicks in within a few seconds, but by then the
missile may have gone several kilometers. That's because the solid fuel rocket
motor is basically a slow burning explosive. The fuel is often all gone very
Patriot missiles are also
very noisy when they launch. Basically it's a sudden, and very loud, explosion.
If you are at home asleep when that happens, you will definitely wake up. This
was the experience of civilians living within several kilometers of Patriot
batteries in northern Saudi Arabia in 1991. The Japanese can live with the loud
noise of a Patriot missile taking off, but not with the after-effects of said
missile colliding with a nearby skyscraper. The Japanese are going to miss the
crowded Patriot battery to some high ground in a park.