THAAD Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense System of United States-Theatre High Altitude Area Defense

THAAD, Theatre High Altitude Area Defense Anti Ballistic Missile Defense System / Terminal High Altitude Area Defense of United States designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles.


The THAAD (or Theatre High Altitude Area Defense) missile system is intended to intercept short- and medium range ballistic missiles, such as the Scud. It also has limited capability against intercontinental ballistic missiles. The concept of the THAAD was proposed back in 1987. A formal request for proposals was submitted in 1990. In 1992 the US Army selected Lockheed Martin for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense development.

First flight test was made in 1995. First successful intercepts were conducted in 1999. In 2006 a contract was signed for delivery of 48 new anti-missile systems to the US Army. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense entered service in 2009. United Arab Emirates also ordered a number of these missile systems.

THAAD, ahead Of Patriot

   The new anti-missile defense system was intended to supplement the Patriot, which entered service in 1982. It is worth mentioning, that in 1991 the Patriot air defense system was used in the Persian gulf against the Iraqi Scud ballistic missiles. Though the capabilities of PAC-2 weren’t enough for interception of more advanced ballistic missiles. In 1990 the US Army placed a formal request for proposals for anti-missile defense system. In 1992 the Lockheed Martin was selected for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense development.

   During development two types of missiles were proposed for the THAAD. The first was the Raytheon MIM-109 with explosive warhead (advanced model of MIM-104, used on the Patriot). The second was ERINT type missile represented by Loral Vought Systems. As a result, the second missile has been selected, which carries no warhead but relies on kinetic energy impact during direct collision.

It was considered, that direct impact was more reliable, as during the collision of two missiles there are more chances to change the direction of heavy ballistic missile and disrupt its stability.

   THAAD is a part of a three-layer missile defense network. The first line of defense comes from AEGIS missiles, designed to knock-out ballistic missiles in space. If that fails THAAD intercepts the missile just as it re-enters the atmosphere. The final layer of defense is the short-range Patriot PAC-3 missile.

   Testing of the new missile began in 1994. The first successful missile intercept was conducted in 1999. The same year THAAD destroyed target, imitating the Scud ballistic missile.

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   The THAAD missile has an estimated range of 150-200 km. It can reach an altitude of 25 km. During the first seconds after being launched the missile spectacularly rotates spirally and then goes to meet the enemy. Several journalists said that the reason for this rotation is that the missile is seeking for its target, but it is a huge error. By rotating spirally the missile gains kinetic energy which is absolutely necessary to hit the target. Because of its small size the Patriot launcher vehicle can carry up to 16 THAAD interceptor missiles.

   The THAAD launcher is based on the Oshkosh M1120 LHS heavy high mobility truck. Each vehicle carries 8 missiles. The M1120 truck is designed for off-road applications. Vehicle is powered by a Detroit Diesel 8V92TA turbocharged diesel engine, developing 450 hp. It has a full-time all wheel drive and a central tyre pressure system.

   The THAAD unit includes a radar, control center and 4 launcher vehicles.

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