The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the Army, and Lockheed Martin [LMT] successfully conducted an interception flight test on Tuesday using the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system integrated with Patriot missile defense system interceptors.
The test, called Flight Test THAAD Weapon System (FTT)-21, occurred at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The THAAD system fired two Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptors at a Black Dagger target.
MDA noted it features the first live intercept flight test of a software build that provides the capability for the THAAD system to compute PAC-3 MSE firing solutions, communicate with the M903 patriot Launching Station, and simultaneously control multiple PAC-3 MSE interceptors in flight.
The agency said this capability allows warfighters to launch PAC-3 MSE interceptors earlier, allowing a longer fly-out time that increases the defended area. MDA said “this new capability is directly applicable to addressing current threat environments with an enhanced, layered defense.”
Lockheed Martin underscored this demonstrated the use of THAAD without the support of a Patriot fire unit has resulted in “greater flexibility for the warfighter.”
In a statement, MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said the success of this flight test “marks a critical milestone for the integration of the THAAD and Patriot weapon systems.”
Hill said this was a complex capability to develop with good results.
“The integration of the PAC-3 MSE interceptor into the THAAD weapon system provides the combatant commands and soldiers on the ground the capability to use the right missile for the right threat at the right time,” he added.
Lockheed Martin said this test also validates the flexibility of the PAC-3 MSE missiles, having been launched from THAAD, Patriot, and Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) in flight tests.
“That’s an important part of the work that we’re doing here at Lockheed Martin, to make sure that we’re taking the capabilities that we can field for our customers and get them to integrate in ways that allow them to be more flexible in how they deploy the capability,” Jon Rambeau, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the company’s integrated warfare systems and sensors business, told Defense Daily in an interview on March 29.
Last year the military and Lockheed Martin conducted flight tests with the PAC-3 MSE units working with the Army IBCS for the first time to intercept ballistic missile targets (Defense Daily, Nov. 15, 2021).
In 2020, MDA and the Army conducted a test with the THAAD and Patriot missile defense weapon in which a THAAD Army-Navy Transportable Radar Surveillance and Control Model 2 (AN/TPY-2) radar detected a missile target and provided the data to a Patriot system that launched a PAC-3 MSE to successfully intercept it (Defense Daily, Oct. 2, 2020).