In Troy, Alabama, on Wednesday of last week, we honored and recognized the team that made the production of the 700th Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor possible. The THAAD interceptors are kinetic energy hit-to-kill, single-stage solid propellent booster, infrared imaging seekers, with a very high probability of single shot-kill. Over 500 of these have been delivered to the United States to be utilized with its seven THAAD Batteries. The remaining amount has gone into foreign military sales.
This production milestone comes at a time when the global demand for THAAD is at an all-time high. Thousands of Russian ballistic missiles have been launched indiscriminately into Ukraine killing thousands of civilians. China is launching ballistic missiles over Taiwan, and North Korea has fired 26 ballistic missiles in launch events this year. There is a strong desire worldwide for missile defense systems to be put in place in Europe and Asia and that includes requirements for the combat proven and combat ready THAAD system with its layered, integrated architecture.
THAAD batteries can have up to nine launchers, with eight ready to fire interceptors per launcher. This gives one THAAD battery up to 72 ready to fire interceptors. THAAD batteries have the ability to rapidly reload launchers and each THAAD battery should have a complete reload capacity within the deployed battery. The total number of THAAD batteries is increasing with the 8th battery coming online by 2025.
The THAAD is a unique missile defense system as it is the only missile system besides the Aegis Ashore that can intercept in space and intercept in the high atmosphere below space. It thus can fire an early shot into space, using the earth’s atmosphere as a filter for debris and decoys to be discarded and a second intercept shot into the high atmosphere at the remaining targets. It has the unique capability to intercept short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles inside and outside of the earth’s atmosphere. This makes THAAD a critical foundation of any integrated air and missile defense architecture. It uses the X-band radar for high definition of incoming targets and can now integrate its fires with Patriot Interceptors using this radar to provide a layer forward and below within its vast combat zone. In addition, the MSE missile can be fired utilizing the THAAD system’s X-band radar, as the THAAD battery can be integrated with MSE Patriot Batteries. This exact type of layered missile defense is what the United States is executing with U.S. THAAD and Patriot systems deployed in the Republic of Korea, systems which defend over 50 million South Koreans from North Korean ballistic missiles. This threat was demonstrated last week by North Korea.
The five THAAD batteries, in readiness state, garrisoned in the U.S. are available for deterrence and protection against North Korean, Russian, and Chinese missile threats.
Given the threats from both China and North Korea, consideration should be given to deploying a THAAD battery to Yokota Air Base, the Headquarters of Japan’s Air Defense Command. The JASDF operates a number of deployed Patriot battalions in partnership with the U.S. forces in Japan and U.S. Patriot systems deployed to Okinawa.
Additionally, a THAAD battery can be deployed to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, to deter and defend against Russian missile threats against our forces and NATO Allies and it can integrate with existing Patriot Systems in Europe.
THAAD units have become one of the most important pillars of existing U.S. missile defense systems. The THAAD system provides safety for United States forces and citizens, and also for its partners and allies when forward deployed. To this day, seven THAAD batteries have been activated, with an eighth expected to be fielded by 2025. Five of these systems are in readiness in garrisons in the United States with the sixth deployed, one in a forward defensive position of the U.S. Homeland, in Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, and the seventh in South Korea. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have also purchased their own THAAD systems. The UAE has operationally deployed its THAAD to defend their capital, Abu Dhabi. On January 20 of this year, the THAAD had its first combat operations and successfully intercepted two medium-range ballistic missiles fired by the Houthi Militia Group, backed by Iran.
With a year of thousands of ballistic missiles launched in both demonstrations and in combat, the indiscriminate killing of thousands of people around the world, the THAAD missile defense system and its layered architecture is licensed to defend and protect. THAAD is proven, deployed, in readiness, and undefeated.
In a world with China claiming they will take Taiwan by force and Russia poised to open a second front from Belarus to Ukraine, we require the acceleration of the production lines for greater capacity to deter and defend lives, infrastructure, and world order. To do so, we require the expedition of THAAD deployments internationally to defend and protect our forces forward and our allies and partners.