“Beyond Requirements”July 11, 2017
Dear Members and Friends,
Last night off the coast off Kodiak, Alaska, one of six U.S. THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) batteries that are operational capable today organically acquired, tracked and successfully intercepted an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM). This is a historic first for the THAAD system to intercept a missile of this speed and range and a significant notable engineering accomplishment considering that the official requirements for the THAAD system are to acquire, track and defeat short and medium range ballistic missiles. This intercept proves that inherent capabilities in the THAAD system go beyond its requirements and the further development of this system by MDA (Missile Defense Agency) brings forward reliability and confidence of an additional needed capability to the U.S. combatant commanders around the world for the ballistic missile defense of their areas of responsibility.
An IRBM range is from 3,000 km – 5,000 km (approx. 1,800 – 3,100 mi) and the range from North Korea to the United States territory Guam is approximately 3,400 km (2,100 mi). This historic successful intercept test validates confidence in the operational THAAD battery deployed in Guam today to defend the island from ballistic missile threats from North Korea. Further, this THAAD test achievement pushes the capability envelope for more confidence in the THAAD deployment in Korea today to defend against lofted ballistic missiles that have higher speeds as was demonstrated by North Korea on July 4th, 2017 (link). With continued further development and testing, the THAAD system would have to be considered to have some inherent capability to intercept ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) and hypersonic boost-glide vehicles.
It is of note that under the late Senator Daniel Inoyue in June of 2010 at the PMRF (Pacific Missile Range Facility) range in Kauai, Hawaii, the THAAD system went emergency operational while simultaneously testing to better defend Hawaii during a crisis with North Korea at that time. This was with a system that had not proved out its capability to defend more than what its requirements were of defeating short and medium range ballistic missiles. Aegis BMD (ballistic missile defense) has done the same with the missile defense test FTM-15 (link) on April of 2011 with a SM-3 Block IA that went operational during testing off of PMRF, Hawaii. This equally applies to the SM-3 Block IIA’s ability to go beyond the requirements for inherent ICBM intercept capability that all of these systems would support and layer in-depth behind the GMD (Ground-based Midcourse Defense) system which is the only proven system in the world to shoot down ICBMs (link).
The United States has only six operational THAAD batteries with a seventh battery coming on line in 2018. Three of those are deployed in full operations: Guam, Korea and as a 24/7 global response force from Texas to go anywhere in the world. There is high pressure in manning and rotations of the current three active deployed THAAD batteries supported by the three additional batteries of which one of them was used in testing in Alaska this week. The U.S. Army has requested nine THAAD batteries with the reasoning of having them deployed in EUCOM, CENTCOM at the minimum with PACOM and NORTHCOM wanting additional batteries to ease the rotations and manpower and equipment required.
It is the forward thinking and risk taking of the Missile Defense Agency and its team to go beyond requirements to push the technology envelope in research, development and testing that makes our nation and allies safer from ballistic missile threats today and tomorrow.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the government and contractor team who executed this flight test today,” said MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves. “This test further demonstrates the capabilities of the THAAD weapon system and its ability to intercept and destroy ballistic missile threats. THAAD continues to protect our citizens, deployed forces and allies from a real and growing threat.” (MDA press release on July 11, 2017).
THADD is 14 out of 14 and intercepting beyond its requirements. It just doesn’t get bette than that!