US Missile Defense System Obliterates Incoming Missile

REUTERS/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The U.S. military conducted another successful test of a U.S. missile defense system Sunday.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade conducted a test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system. A THAAD battery located at the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, Alaska, detected, tracked, and intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile air-launched from a U.S. Air Force C-17 over the Pacific Ocean, according to an MDA press release. THAAD, which has been tested a total of fifteen times, has a perfect test record.

THAAD “provides a globally-transportable, rapidly-deployable capability to intercept ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final, or terminal, phase of flight. THAAD is strictly a defensive weapon system. The system uses hit-to-kill technology where kinetic energy destroys the incoming target,” the MDA explained.

The test was expected, as the Coast Guard warned mariners to stay clear of the testing area earlier this week, although the exact time of the test was unknown. The MDA stressed that the missile defense team “conducted launcher, fire control and radar operations using the same procedures they would use in an actual combat scenario.”

The test comes just two days after North Korea conducted another intercontinental ballistic missile test, this time demonstrating an ability to strike most of the continental U.S. with a destructive nuclear payload. THAAD is not designed to eliminate intercontinental ballistic missiles, but is an excellent defensive tool when it comes to short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

The U.S. began deploying THAAD batteries in South Korea in March after North Korea launched a salvo of short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea/Sea of Japan. The THAAD system in South Korea is operational and has achieved initial intercept capability.

The new liberal South Korean government under President Moon Jae-in has long been opposed to THAAD, arguing that it unnecessarily escalates tensions and agitates China, Russia, and North Korea. Deployment has been delayed since he took power from the hard-line conservatives, but the latest missile test appears to have changed the president’s mind. After the North’s ICBM test Friday, Seoul reached out to Washington and requested additional THAAD batteries.

Seoul’s dovish leadership also wants heavier warheads for their long-range ballistic missiles.

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