Missile Defense Scores ... Finally

After several failed test shots and a seven-year flight hiatus, the Army's Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense missile system (THAAD) hit a Hera target this morning over the White Sands range in New Mexico.THAAD FTT-03 Launch.jpgA Lockheed Martin press release expounds:

Specific test objectives included demonstrating the integration of the radar, launcher, fire control and communications and interceptor operations; demonstrating kill vehicle control in response to in-flight uplinks; and target acquisition and tracking by the interceptors seeker.The entire THAAD team has been focused on proving THAADs ability to detect, track and engage a live target, said Tom McGrath, program manager and vice president for THAAD at Lockheed Martin.This is the third successful THAAD developmental flight test conducted since flight testing resumed for the program in November 2005. A successful controlled flight test was conducted last year, followed by a successful integrated test of the entire THAAD system in May of 2006.
THAAD is expected to complement the PAC-3 (Patriot) interceptor in providing terminal-phase defense against short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. In other words, it might take out Scuds and maybe even Taepodongs, but don't expect to knock down ICBMs. THAAD has a longer range and more energy than PAC-3, meaning it can hit targets much higher.But don't get too excited. Today's test included just one non-maneuvering target with no decoys and no debris. So this was about as easy as a test can get. Now the $10-billion THAAD moves to a missile range off of Hawaii for several more test flights at longer and shorter ranges. Hopefully some of these tests will be more realistic.If all goes well, THAAD will be operational in "a few years", according to McGrath.Read more at Military.com.--David AxeUPDATE 4:37 PM: "MDA's accomplishment today is a real one," adds Victoria Samson, the resident missile guru at the Center for Defense Information -- and a frequent critic of the missile defense program.
THAAD was the first missile defense system to be called a "rush to failure" (but apparently not the last one to earn that moniker). THAAD has been reorganized, revamped, and basically renewed. However, today's test intercept is just one step among many - THAAD has a long way to go before it has proven itself to be reliable and worthy of ramping up production and deployment.Also, note that an intercept was officially not the primary objective - seeker characterization of the target was. This could be seen as MDA trying to walk before it can run - a good thing. Or it can be what we're seeing in the GMD program: an attempt to downplay expectations so that any news is good news.
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