THAAD: Reach Out and Touch Ballistic Missiles
July 31/17: The US has successfully shot down another medium-range test ballistic missile in the latest test of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Conducted over the Pacific Ocean, the scheduled test comes shortly after North Korea tested its own long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Saturday, which Kim Jong-un claims is capable of striking the US mainland. While the US launch was planned well before North Korea’s latest missile launch, it comes at a time of rising tension with the country since Pyongyang launched its first-ever test of an ICBM on July 4. In response to the recent North Korean launch, South Korea said it will proceed with the deployment of four additional THAAD launchers after delays caused by South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s ordering of an environmental assessment on the system.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is a long-range, land-based theater defense weapon that acts as the upper tier of a basic 2-tiered defense against ballistic missiles. It’s designed to intercept missiles during late mid-course or final stage flight, flying at high altitudes within and even outside the atmosphere. This allows it to provide broad area coverage against threats to critical assets such as population centers and industrial resources as well as military forces, hence its previous “theater (of operations) high altitude area defense” designation.
This capability makes THAAD different from a Patriot PAC-3 or the future MEADS system, which are point defense options with limited range that are designed to hit a missile or warhead just before impact. The SM-3 Standard missile is a far better comparison, and land-based SM-3 programs will make it a direct THAAD competitor. So far, both programs remain underway.
The THAAD System
The THAAD Program
THAAD: Schedules and Tests
THAAD: Budgets and Exports
Contracts and Key Events
FY 2006 and Earlier
Additional Readings & Sources
Background: THAAD System
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