One THAAD at a TimeMarch 4, 2019
In a strategic move, the United States European Command (EUCOM) has deployed one of four deployable Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries located in Texas to their area of responsibility (AOR) in Israel, which is one of the seven total U.S. THAAD batteries. Watch video of THAAD’s deployment to Israel from Texas.
The demand from U.S. combatant commanders for THAAD is exceptionally high because THAAD provides a regional upper tier missile defense capability and when coupled with Patriot’s Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE), Patriot Advance Capability-2 (PAC-2), and Guidance Enhanced Missile (GEM-T) interceptors they provide a very comprehensive and layered air and missile defense capability. This coupling capability is already being further developed in South Korea under the Joint Emergent Operational Need (JEON) to leverage both of these systems with launch-on-remote (LOR) and incorporating Patriot MSE interceptors to use THAAD’s Transportable Radar Surveillance (TPY-2) system to best defend the Korean Peninsula from North Korean ballistic missiles.
Two of the seven THAAD batteries are currently deployed to the island of Guam (since 2013) and South Korea (since 2017) and these all deployed in a similar way, using the Air Force’s C-17 transport airplane to rapidly bring THAAD to the theater. It is of note, THAAD was also temporarily deployed to Hawaii in June 2009 by then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, when there was concern North Korea would fire a missile towards Hawaii. Four THAAD batteries are in reserve in the U.S. and one of those four is on standby for rapid deployment around the globe to respond to new missile threats. The four THAAD batteries in reserve in the U.S. allow for three batteries to rotate between training and maintenance and upgrades to the systems.
Israel also has its own missile defense architecture, which includes the Arrow-3, Arrow-2, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome that covers the missile threat spectrum from Iran and Syria down to non-state actors like Hezbollah and Hamas. The U.S. already trains to integrate U.S. missile defense systems to supplement Israel’s systems, including simulating THAAD integration, during the biennial Juniper Cobra exercise, which last occurred in 2018 and the next is expected in 2020.
THAAD has a proven capability to defend against both medium-range (MRBM) and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) in the upper atmosphere and lower space, which was last demonstrated in July 2017, when THAAD successfully intercepted an IRBM and an MRBM during two different tests.
This first rapid deployment of THAAD to the EUCOM theater will set the pace and precedent for upcoming deployments into Europe to integrate THAAD with Patriot and other missile defense systems that are already deployed in Europe by the United States and its European allies. This will provide an integrated air and missile defense architecture to further supplement and enhance the defense of Europe that Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) ships and Aegis Ashore sites may not provide. THAAD is a gap filler and presents an anti-access and area denial for air breathing and missile threats for the missile defense needs in the EUCOM AOR.
The Army has had a requirement for nine THAAD batteries, but only seven have been funded. Two more THAAD batteries are needed to provide U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and EUCOM with their own THAAD batteries and to maintain the current rotation and deployment of THAAD batteries. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) could also use an additional THAAD battery to provide a more comprehensive defense for forward deployed troops and our allies in the Pacific.