By Ann Roosevelt

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Army successfully conducted the seventh of seven intercept tests for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System yesterday.

Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the prime contractor for the THAAD system.

“It was, from all indications we’ve had so far, it was 100 percent successful, just as we expected,” Tom McGrath, Lockheed Martin vice president for the THAAD program, said in a teleconference from Kauai, Hawaii.

“This is the last flight test required” before an Army Review Board Agency in January, he said. A favorable review would result in certification for the THAAD system to deploy.

There is plenty going on until the review, McGrath said. “We are in the final phases of this part of the program, of validating all the requirements that are part of our specification.”

There are a number of inputs to that review, including Army evaluations on a soldier limited user test, and MDA reviews on how the system operates compared to what it is required to do. “There’s a lot of paper and a lot of work that needs to be done and we are supporting that,” he said.

There will be two flight tests in the next fiscal year, one in the second quarter and one in the fourth quarter, both in Hawaii. The fourth quarter test is expected to involve two interceptors going after two targets.

In yesterday’s test, a short range unitary target missile was launched within the Earth’s atmosphere, at approximately 9:32 p.m. Hawaiian time–3:32 a.m. Eastern time–from an at-sea mobile launch platform west of Hawaii. About five minutes later, a THAAD interceptor missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) off the island of Kauai, MDA said in a statement.

Flight test objectives included demonstrating the integration of the THAAD Weapon System; intercepting the target at a highly stressing angle due to the high pressure environment of the endo-atmosphere; completing target acquisition and aimpoint selection by the interceptor’s seeker avionics flight software; and operating the radar, fire control and launcher by Army soldiers during the mission, Lockheed Martin said in its statement.

Upon acquiring and tracking the target, the THAAD system developed a fire control solution and launched an interceptor missile, which acquired and successfully intercepted the target missile. The intercept occurred at the lowest altitude to date for the THAAD interceptor missile, which has the capability to engage targets both inside and outside the earth’s atmosphere. This was the first use of fielded THAAD ground segment hardware and software from the THAAD production program.

Soldiers did not know the actual target launch time, and conducted launcher, fire control and radar operations, using tactics, techniques, and procedures developed by the Army Air Defense School.

In another event, after the engagement, test personnel used the Simulation-Over-Live Driver (SOLD) software system to inject multiple simulated threat scenarios into the THAAD radar, MDA said. This exercised THAAD’s capability to track and engage a mass raid of enemy ballistic missiles.

Several missile defense assets and emerging technologies were used to gather data on the launch for future analysis.Participants included the Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC) system and elements of the Army’s Patriot system. The Patriot system, located at PMRF, conducted engagement coordination for the first time with THAAD and conducted upper tier debris mitigation exercises during the intercept engagement.

“This puts us now at seven successful intercepts for seven tries, and 11 missions in this phase of the program,” McGrath said. These missions have taken place since 2005.

The THAAD system is operationally configured and is the only missile defense system that can intercept in the endo- and exo-atmosphere, MDA said. Operational elements of the BMDS are currently deployed, protecting the nation, our allies and friends against limited ballistic missile attack. The system continues to undergo development and testing to provide a robust layered defense against ballistic missiles of all ranges in all phases of flight.

Two THAAD batteries have been activated at Ft. Bliss, Texas. The first THAAD Battery–A-4 ADA Battery–was activated in May 2008. Soldiers from the battery recently completed the Force Development Exercise and began Limited User Testing in May in preparation for material release expected late this year.

In October 2009, the Army activated the second THAAD battery–A-2 ADA Battery. Unit training for this Battery began this year.

MDA manages the THAAD program, which is executed by the THAAD Project Office in Huntsville, Ala.