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All You Need to Know About The THAAD Missile System

The THAAD Missile System

The United States, on March 6, deployed the first elements of the THAAD system in South Korea. This deployment, apparently, is a response to recent North Korean nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches, yet one should not forget that deploying THAAD on the Korean Peninsula has always been part of Washington’s plan to expand and enhance its anti-missile network in the region. The decision to deploy this system attracted, as expected, a strong diplomatic reaction from China. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said that the THAAD deployment seriously undermines regional strategic balance and the strategic security interests of regional countries including China, and is not favourable to safeguarding peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.

On July 8, 2016, South Korea and the United States announced their decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the South Korean territory. That intent was reiterated in phone conversations on March 1, 2017, between the two countries’ national security advisors, Kim Kwan-jin and H.R. McMaster, following the approval of a land swap deal that allowed the system to be deployed on the military’s preferred site. The US was in a rush to deploy the THAAD system amidst the impending disqualification of President Park Geun-hye, who was ousted when South Korea’s Constitutional Court unanimously upheld the legislature’s impeachment vote of December 2016. Russia and China have thrown their weight against it. Russia has said the US missile system will negatively affect global strategic stability, while China has opposed it because it believes that the THAAD deployment will seriously damage its security interest. In the following paragraphs, detailed information on THAAD has been provided.

1. What is THAAD?

THAAD stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. It is a relative recent addition to the United States’ anti-ballistic missile/interceptor toolkit. It entered production in 2008 and is primarily tasked with taking out threatening ballistic missiles in what is known as their “terminal” phase, that is, when they’re on the way down – not on the way up. Ballistic missile trajectories are divided into three phases:  boost (When it is fired), mid-course (When it is in the middle of its route), and terminal (The target where it terminates). This system was already deployed in Guam, and has recently been deployed in South Korea as well, to protect against any incoming missiles — apparently from North Korea. THAAD has a range of 200 km and can reach altitudes of 150 km.

2. How it works?

THAAD can destroy short-to-intermediate-range enemy missiles in their terminal phase. It has a unique capability to destroy threats in both the endo- and exo-atmosphere using proven hit-to-kill (kinetic energy) lethality. This system is effective against all types of ballistic-missile warheads, especially including Weapons of Mass Destruction (chemical, nuclear or biological) payloads. It is equipped with an X-Band Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, THAAD Fire Control and Communication Support Equipment (TFCC) and a truck launcher.

This system is interoperable with other BMDS elements, working in concert with Patriot/PAC-3, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence, forward based sensors, and C2BMC (Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications System) to maximize integrated air and missile defense capabilities.
The working of THAAD can be classified into four stages post enemy missile launch:

a. The radar detects the enemy missile
b. The TFCC identifies and engages the target
c. The launcher truck is instructed to fire the interceptor missile
d. The interceptor missile uses kinetic energy to destroy the enemy missile

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