THAAD missile defence system operational in South Korea

The United States (US) Military’s missile defence system THAAD on 2 May 2017 became operational in South Korea. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) reached an initial intercept capability to defend against North Korean missiles. However, THAAD would not be fully operational for a period of months.

THAAD missile defence system is designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles. It shoots down short and medium-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of their flight. It uses hit-to-kill technology – where kinetic energy destroys the incoming warhead. It has a range of 200 km and can reach an altitude of 150 km.

Thaad radar system detects the launch of missile which is relayed to command and control. It then command and control instructs the launch of an interceptor missile. The interceptor missile is fired at the enemy projectile which is destroyed in the terminal phase of flight. The launcher trucks can hold up to eight interceptor missiles. THAAD’s deployment comes as tension soars on the Korean Peninsula following a series of missile launches by North Korea.

Till date, North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests in the past 11 years and is believed to be making progress on building a missile capable of delivering a warhead to the US. The country’s foreign ministry also warned that it was prepared to carry out a nuclear test at any time and at any location. This move of North Korea has fueled up tensions for US and South Korea.

Following these acts of North Korea, US and South Korea are together forging ahead with the anti-missile defence system despite staunch objections from China. China fears THAAD will weaken its own ballistic missile capabilities and its regional security balance. The US currently has six Terminal High Altitude Area Defence batteries worldwide. US has previously deployed it in Guam and Hawaii as a measure against potential attacks from North Korea.

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