SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA —
South Korea said Saturday it will proceed with the deployment of four additional units of the U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense system after North Korea’s latest launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The deployment of the additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defenae (THAAD) units had been delayed after the initial two units, after South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered an environmental assessment.
China has been notified of the move to speed up the deployment, the South’s presidential Blue House said.
China’s Foreign Ministry expressed serious concern Saturday about South Korea decision to proceed with the deployment of the additional units.
The deployment will not resolve South Korea’s security concerns and will only make things more complex, the ministry said, reiterating a Chinese call for the system to be withdrawn.
North Korea said earlier Saturday it had conducted another successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that proved its ability to strike all of America’s mainland.
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), formerly Theater High Altitude Area Defense, is an American anti-ballistic missile defense system designed to shoot down short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase by intercepting with a hit-to-kill approach. THAAD was developed after the experience of Iraq’s Scud missile attacks during the Gulf War in 1991. The THAAD interceptor carries no warhead, but relies on its kinetic energy of impact to destroy the incoming missile. A kinetic energy hit minimizes the risk of exploding conventional warhead ballistic missiles, and nuclear tipped ballistic missiles will not detonate upon a kinetic energy hit.
Originally a United States Army program, THAAD has come under the umbrella of the Missile Defense Agency. The Navy has a similar program, the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, which now has a land component as well (“Aegis ashore”). THAAD was originally scheduled for deployment in 2012, but initial deployment took place in May 2008. THAAD has been deployed in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and South Korea.
The THAAD system is being designed, built, and integrated by Lockheed Martin Space Systems acting as prime contractor. Key subcontractors include Raytheon, Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Honeywell, BAE Systems, Oshkosh Defense, MiltonCAT and the Oliver Capital Consortium.
On 6 March 2017, two THAAD launcher trucks arrived by air transport at Osan Air Base South Korea, for a deployment. Earlier that day, North Korea had launched 4 missiles. A Reuters article stated that with the THAAD defense system, a North Korean missile barrage would still pose a threat to South Korea, while an article in the International Journal of Space Politics & Policy said that South Korean forces already possess Patriot systems for point defense and Aegis destroyers capable of stopping ballistic missiles that may come from the north, in a three-layer antimissile defense for South Korea. On 16 March 2017, a THAAD radar arrived in South Korea. The THAAD system is kept at Osan Air Base until the site where the system is due to be deployed is prepared, with an expected ready date of June 2017. Osan Air Base has blast-hardened command posts with 3 levels of blast doors.
By 25 April 2017, six trailers carrying the THAAD radar, interceptor launchers, communications, and support equipment entered the Seongju site. On 30 April 2017, it was reported that South Korea would bear the cost of the land and facilities for THAAD, while the US will pay for operating it. On 2 May 2017, Moon Sang-gyun, with the South Korean Defense Ministry and Col. Robert Manning III, a spokesman for the U.S. military announced that the THAAD system in Seongju is operational and “has the ability to intercept North Korean missiles and defend South Korea.” It was reported that the system will not reach its full operational potential until later this year when additional elements of the system are onsite. In June 2017 South Korea decided to halt further deployment. The 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade (United States) has integrated THAAD into its layered defense on the Korean Peninsula.
Even in the face of a North Korean ICBM test on 4 July 2017, which newly threatens Alaska, a Kodiak, Alaska-based THAAD interceptor test (FTT-18) against a simulated attack by an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile had long been planned. FTT-18 was successfully completed by Battery A-2 THAAD (Battery A, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade (United States) on 11 July 2017. The soldiers used the procedures of an actual combat scenario and were not aware of the IRBM’s launch time.
Also in 2017 another Kodiak launch of a THAAD interceptor is scheduled between 7:30PM and 1:30AM on Saturday 29 July, Sunday 30 July, or Monday 31 July, at alternative times. North Korea is apparently positioning launch equipment in Kusong in preparation for a 27 July holiday. Lee Jong-kul, of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s Minjoo Party states “The nuclear and missile capabilities of North Korea…have been upgraded to pose serious threats; the international cooperation system to keep the North in check has been nullified..”, citing tensions over the U.S. deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in South Korea.
Source: Voice of America News.