flag-icon-usa Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)

Originated From:United States
In Service:2011-present

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) element is a transportable, rapidly deployable capability to intercept ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final, or terminal, phase of flight. It is one of the last lines of defense against an incoming threat.

It is highly effective against the asymmetric ballistic missile threats and uses hit-to-kill technology to destroy an incoming target. THAAD is able to intercept incoming missiles both inside and just outside of the Earth’s atmosphere at a range of 200 kilometers, which makes it difficult for enemy missiles to launch decoys and countermeasures to fool the THAAD interceptor. In addition to eliminating decoy deployability, high-altitude intercept mitigates effects of weapons of mass destruction before they reach the ground.

There are four main components to THAAD: The launcher, interceptors, radar, and fire control. The launcher is mounted on a truck for mobility and storability. There are eight interceptors per launcher. The THAAD system utilizes the Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance (AN/TPY-2) radar to detect and track enemy objects. The fire control system is the communication and data-management backbone. It links THAAD components with the entire Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS).

In a typical combat scenario, THAAD’s X-band, phased array, solid-state radar, scans the horizon for hostile missiles. It is capable of detecting threats at a range of 1,000 kilometers. Once an incoming missile has been detected, the X-band radar relays this information to the C2BMC unit, a mobile command center installed on Humvees that manages and integrates all THAAD components. C2BMC units are capable of linking THAAD with other missile defense layers to strengthen the overall Ballistic Missile Defense System. C2BMC is also responsible for determining friend from foe.

Following the launch, the interceptor will receive targeting information from the ground-based X-band radar. After its burnout stage, the interceptor’s kill vehicle (KV) will separate from the booster. The KV is equipped with a liquid Divert and Attitude Control System (DAVS) which will maneuver the KV toward the target interception point. An infrared seeker in the KV’s nose will home in on the target. At the point of impact, the KV will collide with the incoming missile (like a bullet hitting a bullet), causing complete destruction of the warhead including any nuclear, chemical, or biological agents.

There are currently two batteries in deployment at Fort Bliss, TX. Two additional batteries are scheduled for deployment in 2013.1

  1. “MDA.” Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. <http://www.mda.mil/system/thaad.html>.
Back to Top