Exclusive: U.S. plans to test THAAD missile defenses as North Korea tensions mount
The United States plans to re-test its THAAD missile defense system against medium-range ballistic missiles in the coming days, two US officials said on Friday, as tensions with North Korea rose.
Despite a few months forecast, the missile defense test in the United States will become increasingly important after the implementation by Korea of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) 4. July which has expressed concern about The threat of Pyongyang.
The test will be the first of the territorial defense at altitude (THAAD) to fend off a simulated attack by an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), an official said. THAAD interceptors will be established in Alaska.
The United States has THAAD interceptors in Guam that are intended to help protect a country like North Korea against a missile attack.
Officials told Reuters that the exact nature and timing of the next event spoke of anonymity.
Interviewed by Reuters, the missile defense agency (MDA) confirmed that it was to conduct a THAAD “early July” flight test.
Chris Johnson, a MDA spokesman, said the THAAD Spaceport Weapon Complex Alaska Pacific in Kodiak, Alaska, “detect, track and target a THAAD interceptor.”
“The test is designated as THAAD (FTT) -18 flight test,” Johnson said. He gave no further details.
However, in recent testimony before Congress, Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said that the ITF-18 will try to demonstrate the ability of an IRBM interception to separate THAAD targets.
MDA said THAAD was a 100% successful balance in its 13 flight tests since 2006. After previous tests, the US Army has publicly revealed the results.
THAAD is a ground-based missile defense system designed to shoot down short, medium and medium range ballistic missiles.
Lockheed Martin Corp., the main contractor for the THAAD system, said to intercept incoming missiles, both inside and outside Earth’s atmosphere.
The deployment of the United States THAAD in South Korea this year to protect against short-range missiles from North Korea has also been heavily criticized from China, indicating that the powerful radar system can deeply detect its territory.
Earlier this month, Russia and China, in a joint statement, have called on Washington to immediately halt the deployment of THAAD in South Korea.
The statement said Washington was using North Korea as a pretext to expand its military infrastructure in Asia and threatened to disrupt the strategic balance of power in the region.
THAAD test success rate is much higher than the Midcourse Defense System (GMD) based in the United States, the system designed to bring down an intercontinental ballistic missile to the American continent.
The GMD system has a success rate of 55 percent over the life of the program. But proponents note that technology has improved dramatically in recent years.
In a key development, the GMD system successfully fired for an incoming and simulated North Korean ICBM in a test in May.
This has led the Pentagon to improve its assessment of the United States’ ability to defend itself against a small number of intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to an internal memorandum accessed by Reuters.
MDA told Congress in June that it planned to send 52 other THAAD interceptors to the United States Army between October 2017 and September 2018, for a total of 210 since May 2011.
In a sign of US Congressional concern over missile defense, several lawmakers have tabled amendments to a defense bill that will take place on Friday focused on North Korea.
Republican Rep. Don Young, whose home state of Alaska is considered particularly vulnerable to North Korea’s threat, called for ground-based interceptors for his state and a study of other possible locations on the East Coast or the Midwest.