THAAD Permanently Protecting U.S. Assets in Asia Pacific

DG (26JUL15) Thaad (Guam)

DigitalGlobe imagery from 26 July 2015  of the U.S. Army THAAD Deployment on Guam

With all the talk on the Asia Pacific centered on China’s island building activities in the South China Sea, we often forget about North Korea’s crackpot dictator.

But don’t worry, the U.S. military hasn’t.

Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, commented earlier this month that North Korea remained “the greatest threat” to the U.S. on a “day-to-day basis”.

His comments follow North Korean tests of a submarine launched ballistic missile via a submerged platform back in May. Indicators on satellite imagery made public by AllSource Analysis suggests the country may be readying for further tests at the Sinpo shipyard.

“At some point in the future, as [Kim Jong Un] develops his capabilities he will present a threat to Hawaii and the United States,” the PACOM commander went on to say. He was speaking to journalists at the annual conference of military reporters.

Notice Harris didn’t mention a word about Guam. That’s because the U.S. Army still has a THAAD battery deployed on the strategically important Pacific island. And it appears the battery won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

In fact, the service recently met with the public in June to discuss a possible permanent deployment. “We’re looking at the environmental aspects, the cultural aspects, [and] other aspects out there that we may need to be aware of prior to the […] Department of Defense making a final decision”, an Army representative told the press.

If approved, this would become the first permanent THAAD site located outside of the continental United States—although the UAE has also purchased the system. [1]

The latest satellite imagery from July shows the unit deployed northwest of Anderson Air Force base, the same location initially cleared of vegetation over two years ago. Since 2013, the Army has leveled out the area and constructed a hardstand for the system’s AN/TPY-2 target acquisition radar. There’s also a new support area .25 miles to the south.

The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test. The test, conducted by Missile Defense Agency (MDA), Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) Operational Test Agency, Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, and U.S. Pacific Command, in conjunction with U.S. Army soldiers from the Alpha Battery, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, U.S. Navy sailors aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73), and U.S. Air Force airmen from the 613th Air and Operations Center resulted in the intercept of one medium-range ballistic missile target by THAAD, and one medium-range ballistic missile target by Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD). The test, designated Flight Test Operational-01 (FTO-01), stressed the ability of the Aegis BMD and THAAD weapon systems to function in a layered defense architecture and defeat a raid of two near-simultaneous ballistic missile targets.

The handheld shows the first THAAD interceptors launched during a successful intercept test. Designated as Flight Test Operational-01, the test stressed the ability of the Aegis BMD and THAAD systems to function in a layered defense architecture and defeat a raid of two near-simultaneous ballistic missile targets.

In total, the Army has four THAAD batteries, all subordinate to the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade out of Fort Bliss, Texas. The service expects to acquire a fifth sometime this year while batteries six and seven are still considered under contract.

According to public documents, 7 out of the 9 battery requirement will be operational before the end of the decade. If all goes according to plan, the Army will field 3 batteries with forward deployed regional combatant commands, keep three at home for rotations and have one ready to respond to global threats.

A typical THAAD battery is composed of a AN/TPY-2 target acquisition radar, a fire command and control unit and about six truck-mounted TELs. Each TEL can carry up to eight of the Interceptors.

As far as Guam is concerned, THAAD awaits the results of an environmental impact assessment, although this seems to be an afterthought given the recent construction activity. Nevertheless, the results of the EIA can be tracked over at the Army’s public website.

In the future, we expect additional THAAD batteries will probably be deployed to South Korea, despite Chinese sensitivities.

[1] When I completed an update for the UAE’s surface-to-air missile systems, a site was not identified.

This entry was posted in English, International, North Korea, Security Policy, Technology.

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