Air defense system hits target

by Spc. Trinace Rutledge

FORT BLISS, Texas (Army News Service, June 14, 1999) -- The THAAD system made a successful intercept of a HERA target in a June 10 flight test at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

This was the Theater High Altitude Area Defense's first successful intercept of a ballistic missile. This was the tenth flight test and THAAD's seventh attempt to intercept. The first three tests were characterization flights used to collect data. The last seven were attempts to intercept, according to Lt. Col. Kenneth Maddox, commander, 1st Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. The 1st Bn. here is the Army's only THAAD battalion.

THAAD uses technologies developed in earlier Ballistic Missile Defense Organization programs. It is the first weapon system developed specifically to defend against theater ballistic missiles. Officials said the THAAD system would provide upper tier defense for the Army's two-tier theater missile defense concept.

The higher altitude and theater-wide protection offered by THAAD will provide more protection of larger theater areas than lower tier systems alone, and is being designed to defend against medium to long-range ballistic missiles, officials said.

The THAAD system is a completely integrated weapon system consisting of radar, a battle management, command, control, communication, and intelligence (BM/C31) segment, launchers and missiles.

Maddox said he received some pressure and ridicule over THAAD's continued failure. He said, "they missed the mark of what it takes to get a hit ... look back at Patriot. It took 20 or so attempts [for Patriot to hit the target]. It took THAAD half the number it took for Patriot to hit." He also pointed out that soldiers were never given the opportunity to take part in testing Patriot until late in the testing.

"We were here from day one. We got soldiers' input on what their thoughts were about what was wrong to help the system get going," he said. Soldiers made suggestions for contractors to switch locations, worked on screen displays and worked on the communications part of the testing.

"We can say we've done it," said Sgt. Jason L. Denham. "Now that we've got a hit, everyone is talking about it," he said. "I can say I was there in the very beginning when THAAD got started."

"The tenth of June 1999 will go down in history as a major milestone for our nation and our Army in terms of theater missile defense," said Col. Allen M. McDavid Jr., commander, 6th ADA Bde. "Although more work remains to be done, I want to thank the government and industry team who made this day possible.

"More importantly, I want to thank the great soldiers of 1-6 ADA (THAAD) who have clearly demonstrated both perseverance and professionalism over many months. I am very proud of each one of them!"

The program is managed and funded by BMDO and executed by the Army Program Executive Office for Air and Missile Defense and the Army THAAD Project Office in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space is the prime contractor.

The Raytheon Company builds the THAAD radar. The Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, manages the HERA target used in this test. Coleman Research Corporation and Aerotherm Corporation are the contractors for HERA targets.

(Editor's note: Rutledge is a writer with the 6th Air Defense Artillery Brigade's public affairs office at Fort Bliss, Texas.)