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THAAD Succeeds In Test, Intercepts Target Missile

By | January 29, 2007

      A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense system intercepted a SCUD-type missile, the first time the system has been tested in the open spaces of the Pacific Missile Range Facility, the Missile Defense Agency announced Saturday.

      Previously, THAAD was tested at the White Sands, N.M., range, a constricted airspace that required special maneuvers of the interceptor before each hit.

      A group advocating formation of a multi-layered U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) said the THAAD hit-to-kill success should give pause to rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran that are developing nuclear weapons and advanced missile capabilities.

      In the weekend THAAD test conducted off the island of Kauai in Hawaii, preliminary indications are that planned flight test objectives were achieved, according to MDA.

      This test involved the successful intercept of a “high endo-atmospheric” target missile streaking just inside the atmosphere. The target was a unitary, or non-separating, threat representing a SCUD-type ballistic missile launched from a mobile platform positioned off Kauai in the Pacific Ocean.

      The interceptor was launched from the THAAD launch complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF).

      Primary flight test objectives included demonstrating successful missile launch from the PMRF launch site; interceptor seeker characterization (target identification), discrimination and intercept of a non-separating liquid-fueled target; and collection of data including missile aimpoint, ground equipment and radar tracking/target discrimination and hit assessment algorithms, and evaluation of the missile launching procedures and equipment.

      This was the first test of the THAAD system at PMRF since equipment was moved to the range in October.

      For the first time, soldiers of the 6th Air Defense Artillery Brigade stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, operated all equipment during the test, conducting operations of the launcher, fire control and communications and radar. Their interaction with the complete THAAD system provided valuable test and operations experience for the soldiers and contributed to the operational realism of the test.

      THAAD has five major components: missiles, launchers, radars, fire control; and THAAD-specific support equipment. All components have been successfully integrated, tested and demonstrated during the first program phase that concluded in 1999, according to prime contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT]. Flight testing of the THAAD development program began in late 2005 with the first of 14 flight tests.

      THAAD is the first weapon system with both endo-atmospheric (inside the atmosphere) and exoatmospheric (outside the atmosphere) capability developed specifically to defend against short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles.

      The THAAD system will provide high-altitude missile defense over a larger area than the complementary Patriot system, and, like the Patriot, intercepts a ballistic missile target in the terminal phase of flight — the final minute or so when the hostile missile falls toward the earth at the end of its flight.

      THAAD employs hit to kill technology, using only the force of a direct impact with the target to destroy it.

      This was the second successful intercept for the current THAAD program in three tests, including a test conducted in September at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., that was not completed due to a failure of the target missile after it was launched.

      Successful Hit Hailed

      The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance lauded the successful test, saying it is yet further proof that missile defense works.

      “This intercept once again validates the United States technical and political will to defeat and destroy ballistic missiles from rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea,” according to MDAA.

      The weekend test “was another positive step in the development of the system,” and adds to previous successful BMD tests, the group noted.

      “This fifth missile defense intercept since June … builds more and more confidence in our technical and operational capability to defeat ballistic missile attacks,” according to MDAA.

      “The THAAD missile system is the next layer in our current deployed missile defense systems which are based world-wide that includes the ground-based GBI’s, Aegis Sea-Based SM- 3 missiles and the ground based Patriot 3 systems. This demonstration of the THAAD system will question the investment that both Iran and North Korea are putting into offensive ballistic missiles.”

      MDA will “deploy two THAAD systems [with] 48 missiles and two radars [which] should be deployed in the near future to regions where the threat is highest such as the Persian Gulf, South Korea and Japan,” MDAA noted.

      Sen. John Kyl, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee terrorism, technology & homeland security subcommittee, stressed that the United States must continue moving toward deployment of a competent and effective BMD shield against missiles launched by rogue nations.

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