31 March 2015
THAAD a hot topic of discussion, but still not fully developed
By Park Hyun, Washington correspondent
The Hankyoreh


A THAAD missile interceptor is tested. (US Missile Defense Agency)

Multiple tests show that missile defense system “not exhibiting consistent or steadily increasing reliability growth”

The deployment of a US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Korean Peninsula may be the focus of a fierce debate in South Korea, but the strategic weapon itself is still not fully developed, according to a US Defense Department official.

Michael Gilmore, director of the Operational Test and Evaluation Directorate of the US Department of Defense, stated in a written report on Mar. 25 to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the US military had succeeded in nine interception experiments with THAAD to date, but argued that the system lacked the reliability it needed for operation in the field.

“Analyses of data from the Reliability Confidence Test and multiple flight tests suggest that THAAD system components are not exhibiting consistent or steadily increasing reliability growth between test events,” Gilmore wrote in his report.

“The tools and diagnostic equipment available to Soldiers are insufficient to accurately emplace, maintain, and assess the operational status of THAAD equipment,” he added.

The weapon system also showed weakness in ability to adapt to different natural environments, Gilmore said. In particular, he noted “deficiencies during natural environment testing, which tests a system’s ability to withstand expected temperature extremes, temperature shock, humidity, rain, ice, snow, sand, and dust.”

“The deficiencies need to be addressed to ensure THAAD is capable of operating properly when and where it is needed,” he added.

Another issue cited was a lack of training for THAAD soldiers, with Gilmore referred to as a “primary concern to me.”

Complaining that operators were being sent to THAAD units without adequate training support, Gilmore stressed that THAAD is a complex system made to operate in actual combat areas with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System or other missile defense systems such as the Patriot system.

“THAAD operators commented on the lack of opportunities to train with THAAD in an operationally realistic environment alongside other missile defense systems,” Gilmore said.

A total of ten ballistic missiles were intercepted by the US military in nine tests between 2007 and 2013, including eight short-range and two medium-range targets, Gilmore explained.

The US military currently has four THAAD units in position, one of which was deployed to Guam in 2013 as a measure against a possible strike by North Korea’s medium-range Musudan missile.

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