Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system (PAC-3)
Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the prime contractor for THAAD.
THAAD is a ground-based system designed to destroy theater ballistic missile threats to troops, military assets and allied territories. THAAD consists of a hit-to-kill missile, radar, launcher and battle management command, control and communications system.
In a combat scenario, THAAD would provide the first capability to effectively counter emerging longer-range ballistic missiles. THAAD, as envisioned, would have more than one opportunity to intercept a target, providing a terminal defense against incoming ballistic missiles.
While there are no planned foreign buyers of the system at this time, THAAD is envisioned as a key component in an overall ballistic missile defense system to protect the U.S. homeland as well as troops and allies in combat, so foreign users are expected to materialize at some point down the road.
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) intends to soon conduct the first flight tests of the redesigned THAAD missile system before funding the future development of the system. The first of those flights is slated for late 2004 or early 2005, Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, director of the MDA, told the Senate defense appropriators at hearings in the spring before markup of the FY Ã04 defense authorization and appropriations bills. Those initial THAAD tests are slated to be “non-intercept” tests. A total of four exo-atmospheric flight tests at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., are planned for 2004-05. Leading up to then, the THAAD team continues to conduct extensive ground testing to iron out any potential problems in the system components, according to program officials. Over the past year, some lawmakers have expressed concern about the pace of the program. For example, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) asked why the program was off to a fast start with a sense of urgency to get the capability to the field and now it has slowed without an intercept test slated until 2005. Also, the Army and MDA are not slated to make a low-rate initial production decision on THAAD until 2007. However, Kadish and other MDA officials have explained MDA incorporated lessons learned from the beginning of the program and redesigned the missile based on those lessons. MDA will not outline its future funding plan for the system until it proves its performance in the upcoming tests, according to Kadish. This year, MDA intends to complete the THAAD missile and launcher designs, initiate manufacturing of the missile and ground test units and begin testing the first completed radar antenna. Meanwhile, work to fabricate the second radar and building the battle manager and launcher testbeds also will continue. Under current test plans, two full missiles are slated to undergo testing this year at a new Lockheed Martin system integration lab at the company’s facilities in Sunnyvale, Calif. In addition, extensive simulation planned for the missile will allow program officials to understand all aspects of performance before actual live-fire tests, program officials said. The company also reported it is on track with preparing the new launcher for the program. That launcher will be capable of launching both THAAD and the Lockheed Martin Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles. The emphasis on THAAD’s extensive ground tests surfaced soon after the initial prototype THAAD missile encountered a series of test failures before finally getting two hits to move into engineering and manufacturing development. At the time, the Pentagon put Lockheed Martin on notice that if it did not address the quality control problems hindering the program it would be cancelled. While there is little difference between the prototype missile and the design of the development missile, the team is putting more emphasis on making it more reliable, program officials said. For example, improvements have been made to the seeker and the missile’s computer.