Due to climbing tensions with North Korea, the United States will run a test of the THAAD missile defense system. THAAD is the first line of defense against ballistic missile. The test will take place in the next couple days.
The test is not something new following the North Korean test launch of a intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) earlier this week. The test was planned months before the July 4 launch that has increased concerns from the world towards Pyongyang.
This will be the first test of the THAAD, short for Terminal High Altitude Air Defense, system in a simulated attack scenario involving an intermediate-range ballistic missile or IRBM. The THAAD interceptors will launch from the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska near Kodiak Island. Besides Alaska, the U.S. has THAAD systems deployed in Guam and South Korea.
Reuters confirmed that the test would take place in early July through the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), who said, the Kodiak site will detect and track, then engage the target with a THAAD interceptor.
According to MDA spokesman Chris Johnson, the test is called Flight Test THAAD (FTT)-18. In a recent Congress testimony, the former director of the MDA, Vice Admiral James Syring, stated that FTT-18 was intended to show the THAAD missile defense systems ability to target and hit a IRBM target that is separating. Since 2006, according to the MDA, THAAD has had 13 perfect flight tests.
THAAD’s prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp, stated the missile defense system can intercept missiles outside the Earth’s atmosphere, as well as inside the atmosphere. While the North Koreans may have the technology to send a missile to Alaska, with THAAD, it appears doubtful that it would hit its target.
The U.S. deployed THAAD in South Korea earlier this year to protect from shorter-range missiles from North Korea. This drew criticism from China. They say THAAD’s radar can probe deep into Chinese territory. Both Russia and China asked Washington D.C. to stop the South Korean THAAD deployment. This statement from Beijing and Moscow accuses the U.S. of using the threat from North Korea to expand their military presence in Asia, upsetting the region’s balance of power.
However, the U.S. is intent on protecting South Korea, Japan, and Alaska from potential missile attack. They view North Korea as a clear and present danger and defenses must be made available to protect the region. The debate will continue as a updated defense bill hits congress very soon.
What do you think about the use of the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea? Is the growing threat from North Korea enough to sway congress to continue the deployment in South Korea? Share your thoughts below.
By Cletus Dillwood
Photo Courtesy MDA