Nice shooting – ballistic missile edition

A couple of days ago, the US tested a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile against a target representing an intermediate-range ballistic missile.  The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced:

A ballistic missile target was air-launched by a U.S. Air Force C-17 over the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii. A THAAD weapon system located at PSCA in Kodiak, Alaska, detected, tracked and intercepted the target. Preliminary indications are that planned flight test objectives were achieved and the threat-representative, intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) target was successfully intercepted by the THAAD weapon system.

. . .

This was the 14th successful intercept in 14 attempts for the THAAD weapon system. The THAAD element provides a globally-transportable, rapidly-deployable capability to intercept ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final, or terminal, phase of flight. THAAD is strictly a defense system. The system uses hit-to-kill technology whereby kinetic energy destroys the incoming target. The high-altitude intercept mitigates effects of enemy weapons before they reach the ground.

There’s more at the link.

14 out of 14 ain’t bad!  Here’s video of the test, including the parachute-assisted release of the target from a C-17 transport aircraft.  I actually found that more interesting than the THAAD missile launch. Watch in full-screen mode for best results.

Well done to all concerned.  With North Korea doing its nutjob thing, this sort of defensive system is more and more important to us all.



  1. Sure…

    We were doing all that back in the late sixties with the "Safeguard" system using the Sprint and Spartan interceptor missiles. The Spartan was a two stage missile designed for long range intercept and the Sprint for last minute intercept.

    We have been able to defeat incoming ICBMs for decades. period. About the only thing these new systems may have is better radar and faster computers.

    So, all this worry over the fat little dictator and his rather primitive fireworks is all designed to keep us worried and scared of the nasty bogeyman.

    Don't buy into it. We can handle this baby-faced little jerk and his "ICBMs" with our eyes closed, have been able to for decades. Our new stuff is just better and faster.

    Keep in mind, we are at least 50 years ahead of them in missile and radar technology, and yes, we have stuff you – and they – have never heard of, even tho Clinton tried to give it away.

    Don't lose any sleep over the fat boy and his rantings.

  2. Some of my former Boeing workmates installed and tested that system.

    It was quite the thing according to them!

  3. The C-17 launching an IRBM (even if it is a target) is the thing. Considering the ability to load & loiter a number of these aircraft with the real deal and you've just checked just about anyone.

  4. Test intercepts of a KNOWN threat damn well better be 100%. The question isn't can we intercept test targets with lots of notice and preparation…..for the billions invested they damn well better succeed….what we need to know is can THAAD stop a bogey launched at 3am with no warning and no big shots in the control room to run the show because that is how real world attacks happen. The norks aren't going to tell us what they are going to try and smoke Honolulu….our first warning will be an unknown unidentified blip on the radar.

  5. To Bob M,

    I had not heard of Sprint and Spartan, only the Nike missile system that predated them. But as I suspected, they achieved their "intercept" with their own nuclear warheads. Better a high altitude nuke than a ground burst, sure, but I like this technology much better.

  6. They've been chucking missiles out of the back of cargo planes for quite a while. If I remember right it was floated (no pun intended) as a mobile basing option for Minuteman and MX back in the cold war. There's an old air force or contractor film about it on YouTube. There are films about Spartan and Sprint ABMs on there too. The Sprint footage is incredibly impressive and I highly recommend looking it up. The thing tears out of its launcher like a scalded cat at something like 100Gs and hits Mach 10 in just a couple of seconds. It's going so fast it glows. Turns the air around it to plasma.

  7. To Nadnerbus:

    "… they achieved their "intercept" with their own nuclear warheads."

    Quite true. But they were neutron warheads. Saturate the target with an incredible burst of neutrons and literally fry all it's electronics, with a minimal amount of real-world damage.

    That way, we were not depending on the "bullet hitting a bullet" idea, a tough nut to crack even today. A near miss, and you still fry the incoming bogey, and if it has multiple warheads, they ALL fry.

    Then all you have are various lumps of metals going "thump" on the ground… and no big bang.

  8. To Dan:

    Today we don't depend only on radar detection from sites scattered around the globe such as the old Dewline up in the frozen tundra. That's ancient technology. Satellites can spot – anytime, anywhere – a missile the instant it lights off. With the modern computers and communications we enjoy today, those launches are known to those who need to know almost immediately.

    The problem is – as always – the people who receive this information. Will they act on it, or sit on their thumbs.

    As for Flight 370 not having been tracked and lost at sea? No way. Somebody is sitting on the info and not releasing it for fear of exposing an advanced but still secret technology… at least for now.

    It's the people involved…. again.

  9. I see this as a dilemma of unrecognized magnitude.
    China denies it can do anything about North Korea, but saber rattles and moves its military to protect it as soon as anyone tries to stop that country from flexing its nuclear muscles.

    Imagine this,China is using this impoverished satellite state as a way to test its own defenses and weapons without showing the world its true objectives. It is further utilizing North Korea to trick/force other countries to show their hands when they retaliate to North Korea's advances.

    Now China(and the rest of the world), sees how the US can intercept any incoming ICBM's and can now either develop a new direction of attack or modify existing methods to sidestep/overcome the missile defenses while establishing the same missile defenses for themselves.

    Why do they insist on showing to the world each and every advancement in their war machine?

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