As a former U.S. Army Officer in the Air Defense Artillery Brigade, my job was to protect U.S. forces from aerial attack, using tactics and techniques for the employment of air defense systems to include the Stinger and Patriot missiles and the Avenger system. Now, as a curious civilian, I continue to have an interest in the defensive technology that is currently being used as part of America's missile defense. When enemies attack, the United States and its allies must be ready to defend their soldiers, citizens and infrastructure. That's where THAAD comes in - one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world today.
On July 7, 2016, the United States and South Korea agreed to the deployment of THAAD in South Korea, after North Korea tested a long-range rocket and conducted its fourth underground nuclear test. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is a long-range, land-based theater defense weapon that acts as the upper tier of a basic 2-tiered defense against ballistic missiles. It’s designed to intercept missiles during late mid-course or final stage flight, flying at high altitudes within and even outside the atmosphere. This allows it to provide broad area coverage against threats to critical assets such as population centers and industrial resources as well as military forces, hence its previous “theater (of operations) high altitude area defense” designation.
If you've been watching or reading the news about North Korea lately, you've likely heard some mention about the Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. The United States began installing the advanced antimissile system after North Korea recently tested four ballistic missiles. This defensive measure by the U.S. falls under the auspices of its deal with South Korea - who is providing land for the missile system and will build the base for it.
The THAAD system is a key element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. It protects against short and medium-range ballistic missiles. Each THAAD system is comprised of five major components: interceptors, launchers, a radar, a fire control unit and support equipment. THAAD is managed by the Missile Defense Agency and is operated by the U.S. Army. Here's a short video of the missile in action:
The US already has powerful radars based in Japan and a Thaad system in Guam. It's not easy to quantify the additional benefit that Thaad radars in South Korea would give the Pentagon. But they will certainly give the South Koreans an important and expanded new layer of defence against missile attack. In the diagram below, you can see how the components work together with 100% accuracy. No wonder our enemies are a little unsettled by this technology!
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