The Lockheed Martin Terminal High Altitude Area Defense launchers have never been used in combat, but the MDA said in a statement that Army troops from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade in Kodiak, Alaska, carried out “the same procedures they would use in an actual combat scenario.”
The soldiers also “were not aware of the actual target launch time,” the statement said.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the government and contractor team who executed this flight test today,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, the Missile Defense Agency director.
“This test further demonstrates the capabilities of the THAAD weapon system and its ability to intercept and destroy ballistic missile threats. THAAD continues to protect our citizens, deployed forces and allies from a real and growing threat,” Greaves said.
The U.S. has deployed two THAAD launchers to Seongju province on a former golf course south of Seoul over the protests of local residents, but the new government of President Moon Jae-in has balked at installing a full battery of six launchers pending an environmental study.
The pressure on Seoul to deploy the full battery has increased since North Korea’s July 4 test launch of a missile initially identified as an IRBM, or Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, by U.S. Pacific Command but later classified by the U.S. military as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with the range to hit Alaska.
THAAD was not designed to defend against ICBMs, but the advance in North Korean missile technology shown by the ICBM test launch has given urgency to the need for more defenses against the North’s wide array of short- and intermediate-range missiles. There are no immediate plans to do THAAD test launches from South Korea, officials said.