Second test at range on-target

MANA — Late Thursday, the Missile Defense Agency launched a land-based anti-ballistic missile from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in the second test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system to be conducted on Kaua‘i.

The system is being designed to shoot down short-to-medium range ballistic missiles, and could be used by the Army in 2009 or 2010.

All current activity conducted is for research and development purposes only. Neither the dummy missile, launched at sea, nor the interceptor missile, launched from PMRF, were armed.

Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering, Missile Defense Agency director, called the test a success in a press release.

“This test involved the successful intercept of a ‘mid endo-atmospheric’ (inside Earth’s atmosphere) unitary (non-separating) target representing a ‘SCUD’-type ballistic missile launched from a mobile platform positioned off Kaua‘i in the Pacific Ocean,” states the release. The interceptor was launched from the THAAD launch complex at the PMRF.

This was the 26th successful “hit to kill” intercept for elements of the Ballistic Missile Defense System since 2001, and the third successful THAAD intercept in the current program phase, states the release. Thursday’s successful test marked the second held on Kaua‘i.

The target missile was launched at 8:42 p.m. Three minutes later the THAAD interceptor missile was launched, and two minutes later the intercept occurred over the Pacific Ocean.

Soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 6th Air Defense Artillery Brigade stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, are on-island and operated all THAAD equipment during the test, conducting operations of the launcher, fire control and communications and radar.

This was the first THAAD interceptor mission that was considered a Ballistic Missile Defense System test, meaning that more than one element of the BMDS participated in the test. An Aegis equipped Navy vessel offshore carried a sensor package that observed the test for research and development within the Aegis element, said MDA spokeswoman Pam Rogers. Aegis is an intercept system developed by the Navy.

Other flight test objectives for the THAAD included demonstrating successful missile launch from the PMRF launch site, interceptor “kill vehicle” target identification, location where the interceptor strikes the target, ground equipment and radar tracking/target discrimination and hit assessment algorithms. Evaluation of the missile launching procedures and equipment was also honed.

The first successful THAAD intercept test in the current program took place on July 12, 2006 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and the second successful THAAD intercept took place on Jan. 27 at PMRF.

A test on Sept. 13, 2006 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico was not completed due to a failure of the target missile after it was launched.

THAAD is the first weapon system with both inside and outside the atmosphere capability developed specifically to defend against short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles.

The THAAD system will provide high-altitude missile defense over a larger area than the Patriot system, and, like the Patriot, intercepts a ballistic missile target in the “terminal” phase of flight — the final minute or so when the hostile missile falls toward the earth at the end of its flight. THAAD uses “hit to kill” technology, using only the force of a direct impact with the target to destroy it.

The Ballistic Missile Defense System is being developed, tested and deployed as a layered defense for the United States, its deployed forces and allies, against ballistic missiles of all ranges in all phases of flight. THAAD can be transported by air to wherever it is needed worldwide, and consists of radar, fire control unit, missile launchers, and interceptor missiles.

The THAAD program is managed by the Missile Defense Agency in Washington, D.C., a joint service Defense Agency within the Department of Defense, and is executed by the THAAD Project office in Huntsville, Ala.

Lockheed Martin Corporation is the prime contractor.

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