MANA — The most complex test of the Missile Defense Agency’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, will take place this week at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, officials say.
The test, the fifth on Kaua‘i and the 10th overall, will feature two interceptors against one target, which will separate mid-air and force the interceptors to discriminate between more than one component.
Also a first, THAAD will receive its cue to launch the interceptors from the Aegis-equipped USS Lake Erie.
The Aegis system will detect and begin tracking the target, a short-range separating ballistic missile, and then hand off the tracking to THAAD at PMRF.
“Each test has had increasingly complex parameters, and this is the most complex to date,” Pamela Rogers, Missile Defense Agency spokeswoman, told The Garden Island Friday.
Should the first interceptor successfully hit the target, the second will be destroyed in-flight, also called a command destruct.
As one of many layers of defense against attacks, THAAD specializes in land-based interception of ballistic missiles during the terminal phase of flight. THAAD complements the mobile Patriot missile system, which is used to intercept in lower altitudes. The sea-based Aegis system provides longer-range interception of missiles at their highest point.
Also participating in the test, the former USS Tripoli will launch the target, the Defense Department will observe and a Patriot radar will track.
“We’re adding more and more pieces of this system together to see if everything works together,” Rogers said.
The first THAAD field unit was recently delivered to Texas, where soldiers are currently undergoing training for the system and will conduct tests to prove their ability to operate it.
THAAD has completed nine flight tests and five intercepts to date.