posted on Oct, 17 2003 @ 01:49 PM
If the THAAD system were fully funded, it would be used with the current Patriot system to allow for short and medium-range high altitude defense
against ballistic missile attacks. While the Patriot system is designed as a defense against tactical ballistic missiles within the atmosphere, the
THAAD is capable of engaging and destroying missiles beyond the atmosphere.
"Comparing a Patriot to a THAAD is like comparing a moped to an Indianapolis race car," said Chief Warrant Officer Eddie Atkins, electronic
maintenance officer from the 1st Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery. Atkins said he has worked with both systems and "I just cannot say enough good
things about the THAAD. Its range is what is absolutely amazing."
The THAAD system consists of missiles, launcher, radar, battle management/command, control, communication, computers and intelligence units, and
support equipment. This entire system, operated by soldiers from A Battery, 1st Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery, was transported from Fort Bliss
to Washington, D.C., for several demonstrations.
After being on display at the Capitol, the THAAD was set up May 7-10 on the national Mall for Public Service Recognition Week and it will be at
Andrews Air Force Base, Md., for the Armed Forces Day joint-service open house May 15-17.
The THAAD's overall price tag of $14 billion includes the total cost of the system from development through procurement, according to Lt. Col. Lloyd
McDaniels with the Army's Research, Development and Acquisition office in the Pentagon. He said about $3 billion has been spent already in the
development phase of the system.
"The system is good all the way around," said Sgt. Daniel Kopta, THAAD launcher crew chief, "but the range is the greatest asset. It can actually
intercept a fired missile in outer space, and it travels so fast by using kinetic energy, that the intercepted missile and the THAAD will be destroyed
as soon as they come into contact."
Kopta said there would be no debris falling to the ground with the THAAD because it would burn up as it enters the earth's atmosphere. He said this
would be true even if the ballistic missile carried chemical, biological or nuclear elements in its warhead. With the Patriot, debris would sometimes
fall to the ground because impact occurs at a much lower altitude. In addition, the Patriot does not always directly impact its target, as it explodes
when sensors indicate it is near another missile.
Kopta said there are some other distinct advantages to the THAAD.
"Once the system (launcher and missiles) is set up, the soldiers won't be with the system, they will be back at the TOC (tactical operations
center), and will only have to go back to the system if something goes wrong or to do required maintenance," he said. There will be a computer system
set up at the missile site that will tell the system what to do, by reading information to and from the TOC.
The communications center at the TOC will read the radar, track any incoming missiles, and relay information to the THAAD missile. A big plus is that
the THAAD can be placed on automatic or manual firing, be put on hold once it is fired or stopped after launching. If the missile is stopped, it will
A battery will run the computer system at the launch site, and the computer will tell itself when the battery is low, in which case, the system will
automatically turn on a 10-kilowatt quiet generator to recharge its battery.
The concept for the system began 33 months ago and has gone through several flight tests at White Sands. At the test Tuesday morning, the THAAD
missile apparently went out of control shortly after launch and analysis of the flight data is underway to find the reason for the malfunction. The
THAAD is the first weapon system designed to specifically defend troops against ballistic missiles. DoD officials said the Patriot system was
originally designed as an anti-aircraft system and modified during Desert Storm to defend against SCUDs.
Soldiers have been trained on the THAAD prototype equipment and currently are performing selected tasks during flight-testing and are assisting
contractor personnel on all equipment. Soldier involvement during the current flight test program will support the smooth transition for the
Congressionally mandated User Operational Evaluation System, which will support operational assessments of the systems as well as provide an early
warfighting capability in the event of a national emergency.
Rep. Curt Weldon told the group at the display that the problems with the prior flight tests all involved quality control problems and have been
fixed. "Congress is committed to providing effective theater missile defenses in place to protect U.S. troops," Weldon said. "We cannot defend a
single attack from a missile to date. Over the past five years we have made tremendous progress...the THAAD is an example of how far we have come."
"This is the best radar acquisition system, it's the best high altitude defense system we have to defend an area. With this system, we will be able
to intercept at supersonic speed any incoming missile, so it is not a threat to the soldiers on the ground," Lt. Gen. Paul Kern said. Kern is the
military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for research, development and acquisition.