The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system scored a second successful kill during a flight test conducted over the Pacific Ocean, last week (April 5th, 2007). The test demonstrated the successful ‘hit-to-kill’ intercept of a “mid-endoatmospheric” (inside Earth’s atmosphere) unitary (non-separating) target. Earlier this year, the first flight test conducted at PMRF demonstrated THAAD’s ability to intercept a threat representative target in the high endo-atmosphere.
“The system is proving its precision and lethal effect throughout our skies, considering THAAD’s successes in both the high- and now mid-atmospheric proving grounds,” said Tom McGrath, program manager and vice president – THAAD at Lockheed Martin. “By linking with another element of the BMDS during this flight test, our nation’s vision of a layered missile defense becomes one step closer to reality.”
The integrated THAAD system was operating during the test, including the radar, built by Raytheon, and launch system built by Lockheed Martin. Throughout the test, the THAAD Fire Control and Communications unit’s data link communicated with a simulated Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense ship via a satellite link with the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, located in San Diego. This successful link highlights the interoperability of the various elements of the United States’ Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS)
The test also evaluated the capability of the interceptor’s seeker during the ‘end game’ (terminal phase) to identify the target and discriminate it prior to final intercept, and intercept of a non-separating liquid-fueled target.
The THAAD program began flight testing in November 2005 at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), NM. Three successful THAAD tests were conducted at WSMR, including the intercept of a unitary target in July 2006.
THAAD is designed to defend U.S. troops, allied forces, population centers and critical infrastructure against short- to intermediate range ballistic missiles. THAAD comprises a fire control and communications system, interceptors, launchers and a radar. The THAAD interceptor uses hit-to-kill technology to destroy targets, and is the only weapon system that engages threat ballistic missiles at both endo- and exo-atmospheric altitudes.