Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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US Ramping-up Production of THAAD Interceptor Missiles amid Growing Demand

Missile killer

(Photo : US Army) Launch of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor.

The United States will boost production of the interceptor missiles for its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to cope with the rising demand for this system capable of shooting down ballistic missiles in their final stage of flight.

The Pentagon on March 16 said it requested $30 billion more in the fiscal 2017 U.S. defense budget, including funding to manufacture 12 THAAD hit-to-kill (HTK) interceptor missiles similar to those now being installed in South Korea. It has allotted $151 million to buy the 12 interceptors.

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The announcement came on the same day Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that "all options are on the table" -- including a possible pre-emptive strike -- to stop North Korea's nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile programs.

THAAD uses a one-stage hit-to-kill interceptor to destroy short-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. It can intercept incoming missiles both inside and just outside of the Earth's atmosphere at a range of 200 kilometers.

THAAD's ability to intercept both inside and outside the atmosphere makes THAAD an important part of layered missile defenses. THAAD fills the gap between the exclusively exo-atmospheric (outside the Earth's atmosphere) Aegis interceptors and the exclusively endo-atmospheric (inside the Earth's atmosphere) Patriot interceptors.

South Korea operates both the Aegis and Patriot systems. The THAAD system in South Korea is the first layer in a triple-layered defense against North Korean missiles.

Each THAAD battery consists of six truck-mounted launchers; 48 interceptors; two mobile tactical operations centers and an AN/TPY-2 radar system. A complete THAAD battery costs some $800 million.

On March 6, two THAAD launcher trucks with 16 missiles arrived by air transport at Osan Air Base. The THAAD system to which these launchers belong will be operational by April, and will be located at a golf course in Seongju south of Seoul.

The THAAD system was designed, built and integrated by Lockheed Martin Space Systems. THAAD has been deployed in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and South Korea.

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