Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Missile System

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), formerly known as Theater High Altitude Area Defense, is a United States Army anti-ballistic missile system designed to shoot down short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase using a hit-to-kill approach. Recently, the US deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) to South Korea in the process to protect South Korea from aggression of the neighboring state of North Korea as well as it is also presumed that indirectly US has kicked off a new US-China fight.

What is THAAD?

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or simply abbreviated as THAAD, is a missile defence system that is designed to intercept and destroy short and medium-range ballistic missiles in their final flight phase. First proposed in 1987 and then finally deployed in 2008, the THAAD cannot be used as a form of attack against an enemy. Its role, by use of powerful radar, is to simply track and destroy missiles before they are launched.

It has following abilities:

  • To intercept missiles inside and outside the atmosphere.
  • Defends population areas and high value infrastructures.
  • It is also interoperable with other ballistic missile systems.
  • It is highly mobile and is operable worldwide.
Other important points about THAAD include:

Lockheed Martin is the primary contractor in the THAAD project.

Each THAAD system comprised of – interceptors, launchers, radar, fire control unit and support equipment. The radar first intercepts an incoming missile. Any such threat is identified by those manning the system, which then fire a projectile from a truck, called the interceptor, at the missiles. Finally by use of just the projectile’s kinetic energy, the ballistic missile is destroyed.

The use of kinetic energy makes the anti-missile system safer as it does not make use of warheads to destroy missiles.

What would the deployment of the THAAD system by the US mean to the security balance of the region?

According to China, the deployment of THAAD would destabilize security in the region.Some experts believe that the deployment of the system by the US in South Korea is not merely a defensive measure. Some believe that the THAAD would only further increase American presence in the region that would only add to tensions.

While China and North Korea have continuously opposed the deployment of THAAD, there have been concerns from South Korea as well with regards to the anti-missile system. With the installation of some parts of the THAAD system already underway, protests have sparked off in South Korea against the deployment. Such a deployment has caused major worries amongst the people in South Korea with tension regarding peace and security in the region escalating.

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