REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama – Two systems become one during recent missile defense integration test.
The Missile Defense Agency, in partnership with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and other organizations, successfully conducted a flight test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, weapon system, March 29.
Preliminary results of the test, designated Flight Test THAAD Weapon System-21, or FTT-21, conducted at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, indicate the THAAD weapon system’s achievement of all flight test objectives. Remarkably, the THAAD Weapon System integrated with and fired two Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3, Missile Segment Enhanced, or MSE, interceptors, intercepted and destroyed an SMDC Black Dagger target missile.
“The success of today’s flight test marks a critical milestone for the integration of the THAAD and Patriot weapon systems,” said MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill. “The integration of the PAC-3 MSE interceptor into the THAAD weapon system provides the combatant commands and soldiers on the ground the capability to use the right missile for the right threat at the right time. This was a complex capability to develop, and I commend the MDA team, U.S. Army Soldiers and civilians, and our industry partners for their stellar dedication to the mission.”
According to MDA, FTT-21 is the first live intercept flight test of a software build, providing the capability for the THAAD Weapon System to compute PAC-3 MSE firing solutions, communicate with a Patriot M903 Launcher, and simultaneously control multiple PAC-3 MSE interceptors in flight. The integration of the PAC-3 MSE interceptor into the THAAD weapon system enables the warfighter to launch the PAC-3 MSE interceptor earlier, enabling a longer fly-out time, which in turn increases the defended area or battlespace. This new capability directly addresses the current threat environments, providing an enhanced layered defense against adversary missile threats using peer-to-peer engagement coordination, early warning track data, and battle management situational awareness.
“The trend in military modernization – including cruise, ballistic, and hypersonic missiles – coupled with aggressive and coercive actions present an increasingly urgent challenge to sharpen our defenses,” said Navy Capt. Leo Albea, Director of Future Concepts, Test and Analysis with the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense. “Missile threats come in all shapes and sizes. The United States enjoys capable systems able to address threats at all ranges. Success hinges on efficiently employing these systems in a coordinated manner.
“There is a limited pool of forces available globally to employ against missile threats which continue to grow,” he added. “Gaining the ability to organically fire Patriot MSE interceptors from a THAAD battery marks the high point for long-standing efforts to integrate the two weapon systems. What results is a true layered system that maximizes our ability to defend against the difficult threat environments our forces face in numerous areas around the globe.”
Albea said missile defense is a big deal for joint force commanders and these capabilities directly contribute to broader deterrence strategies to prevent attacks on the United States, its deployed forces and allies.
“Our ability to deny adversaries benefits from executing a missile attack helps affect their decision calculus and increases the cohesiveness of our alliances,” Albea said. “Deployed missile defense batteries go a long way in assuring allies and partners of the U.S. willingness to uphold security commitments. Missile defense denies the enemy an easy target while preserving our counter-strike capabilities.”
Upper and lower-tier assets synchronized under one platform as was done in FTT-21, makes missile defense more efficient and more effective, especially in a crowded environment where several different classes of missiles can threaten densely populated areas.
“This test validation highlights the imperative of interoperability,” Albea said. “Our warfighters have long desired the capability to integrate different platforms. The successful test opens the door for expanding our capacity to defend our interests without increasing our inventory of expensive missile defense platforms.”