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THAAD Scores In First Ballistic Missile Defense System Test

By | April 9, 2007

      Adding to a string of missile-defense wins, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense (BMD) system successfully intercepted a target missile, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced.

      That test was conducted at the Pacific Missile Range Facility off Kauai in Hawaii.

      THAAD intercepted a “mid endo-atmospheric” (inside earth’s atmosphere) unitary (non-separating) target 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.

      It was the 26th successful “hit to kill” intercept for elements of the Ballistic Missile Defense System since 2001, and the third successful THAAD intercept in the current program phase.

      The target missile was launched at approximately 8:42 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, April 5 (2:42 a.m. ET April 6).

      About three minutes later the THAAD interceptor missile was launched and approximately two minutes later the intercept occurred over the Pacific Ocean.

      Soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 6th Air Defense Artillery Brigade stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, operated all THAAD equipment during the test, conducting operations of the launcher, fire control and communications and radar.

      Their interaction with the complete THAAD system provided test and operations experience for the soldiers and enhanced the operational realism of the test, MDA reported.

      This was the first THAAD interceptor mission that was considered a BMD system test, meaning that more than one element of the system participated in the test. One of the objectives was demonstrating successful beyond-line-of-sight communications with a radar aboard a Navy Aegis weapon system ship, as well as communications links with the command, control, battle management and communications (C2BMC) system and the Air Force Space-Based Infrared Sensors (SBIRS) system.

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

      While post-test analysis will take place over several weeks, initial indications are that the test objectives were achieved.

      The first successful THAAD intercept test in the current program took place on July 12 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and the second successful THAAD intercept took place on Jan. 27 at the Pacific range.

      A test Sept. 13 at White Sands Missile Range wasn’t completed due to a failure of the target missile after it was launched. The THAAD interceptor was not launched.

      THAAD is the first weapon system with both endo-atmospheric (inside the atmosphere) and exo-atmospheric (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 uses “hit to kill” technology, using only the force of a direct impact with the target to destroy it.

      The Ballistic Missile Defense System is being developed, tested and deployed as a layered defense for the U.S. homeland, its deployed forces, friends and allies against ballistic missiles of all ranges in all phases of flight. The higher-altitude and theater-wide protection offered by THAAD provides more protection of larger areas than lower- tier systems like Patriot alone, MDA noted. THAAD can be transported by air to wherever it is needed worldwide, and consists of radar, fire control unit, missile launchers, and interceptor missiles.

      Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] is the prime contractor.

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