At the height of the Army’s FIRES Conference, last Thursday, October 1, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Army successfully integrated the Patriot air and missile defense system with the THAAD system and intercepted a missile target at the White Sands Missile Range, in New Mexico. The THAAD AN/TPY-2 radar detected and tracked a Black Dagger target threat representative ballistic missile, transferring the targeting information to the Patriot system which then launched a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missile and destroyed the Black Dagger by “engage on remote”, off of the THAAD radar early detection and track.
Last week’s test is a culmination of the 2018 Joint Emergent Operational Need (JEON) submitted by U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), is a significant milestone, as it demonstrates the integration between systems that: extends battle space, reduces shot doctrine, increases the footprint of the defended area, and closes the gap between upper-tier and lower-tier missile defense in regions where THAAD and Patriot are deployed.
“The success of FTP-27 validates the interoperability of the Patriot and THAAD weapon systems,” said Vice Adm. Jon Hill, Director of the MDA. “This capability is vital to the Ballistic Missile Defense System to defend against rogue threats to our homeland, deployed forces, and allies.”
The JEON, requested by Gen. Vincent Brooks, then-USFK Combatant Commander, went outside the normal DoD acquisition process, which can take up to 10 years, and was thus able to address the Commander’s immediate requirements and stay ahead of the growing ballistic missile threat posed by the DPRK to allied forces and the civilian population on the Korean Peninsula.
The effort to create an integrated defense capability between Patriot and THAAD has generated a much more efficient, better-defended South Korea, and provides greater deterrence against a North Korean adversary that has proven steadfast in demonstrating its advancing capabilities. This JEON marks a great example of incrementally strengthening U.S. missile defense capabilities while addressing COCOM requirements through the JEON process to deliver these capabilities at a much faster pace and ahead of the threat.
In a February 2020 briefing, Vice Adm. Jon Hill explained the process of streamlining THAAD and Patriot capabilities in three phases, and laid out the overall JEON aspect, with phase one being to “extend or remote the launchers of THAAD,” adding that “if you can separate the launchers away from the battery, that gives you a lot of flexibility on the Peninsula.” The second phase consists of doing “launch on remote for the Patriot missile using the THAAD radar,” thus allowing USFK to “extend and take full advantage of the kinematic capability of a Patriot.” The third and final phase, which we currently find ourselves in, calls for “[integrating] Patriot missiles into the THAAD launcher, using the right missile for the right threat at the right time.”
Today, U.S. Army THAAD and Patriot systems are deployed together in the Republic of Korea and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Defending U.S. forces against current missile threats is a top priory and is why the Army Patriot and THAAD systems are in the highest optempo in the Army. This JEON software upgrade should be applied to help relieve the high demand and operational tempo, to better defend the region with improved efficiency, and to provide a greater defended footprint until the requirement for IBCS to integrate THAAD with Patriot is put forward, developed, tested, and deployed. In theory, allied nations who operate the THAAD and Patriot systems could also apply this software upgrade to be more efficient and create more defended areas.
The Missile Defense Agency filled a valuable and unique role in developing, testing, and proving out the interoperability of THAAD with Patriot for the United States Army. This raised U.S. IAMD from “good” to “great”, by increasing the battlespace and defended area of the THAAD/Patriot JEON to best defend the Korean Peninsula today and in the near future from North Korean ballistic missiles.