The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), has awarded Lockheed Martin a $459 million contract modification for production and delivery of interceptors for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system.
The modification brings the total contract value to $1.28 billion with funding provided in 2017 and 2018. The new interceptors support U.S. Army THAAD units and growing operational requirements.
(The Missile Defense Agency and Lockheed Martin conducted a successful flight test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Weapon System at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, HI. Courtesy of Lockheed Martin and YouTube. Posted on Jun 30, 2010)
THAAD is a key element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS), and is highly effective at protecting America’s military, allied forces, citizen population centers and critical infrastructure from short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missile attacks.
“The THAAD system’s capability and reliability have been demonstrated with 15 out of 15 hit-to-kill intercepts dating back to 1999, and by exceeding readiness rates currently being experienced in the field with operationally deployed batteries,” exlains Richard McDaniel, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for the THAAD system.
“THAAD interceptors defeat dangerous missile threats our troops and allies are facing today, and have capability against advancing future threats.”
“Our focus on affordability, coupled with efficiencies of increased volume, is providing significant cost-savings opportunities to meet growing demand from the U.S. and allies around the globe.”
(On July 11, 2017, THAAD intercepted an intermediate-range ballistic missile target during an intercept test. Courtesy of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance and YouTube. Posted on Jul 11, 2017)
THAAD employs Lockheed Martin’s proven “hit-to-kill” technology.
“Hit-to-Kill” (HTK) refers to destroying a threat with body-to-body impact by the interceptor missile.
The impact takes place with a large amount of kinetic energy that completely destroys threats containing weapons of mass destruction, keeping them away from protected areas when it matters most.
HTK technology is made up of three fundamental principles:
1. Sensing the threat
- Before an interceptor can eliminate a threat, it must first detect the exact location of that threat.
- This is done through a series of events.
- First, the ground-based defense system detects the threat, estimates an intercept point, and launches the interceptor missile.
- Once the interceptor is near the threat, the interceptor’s onboard radar seeker searches for and acquires the threat.
- The radar seeker provides a highly accurate location for the intercept target through searching, scanning and processing the location data en route to the threat.
- To achieve body-to-body impact, the onboard radar seeker measures critical target information that is then used by the interceptor’s guidance system to pinpoint where to aim on the target’s body.
2. Getting to the threat
- In order to effectively intercept the threat, the interceptor must be very agile and maneuverable.
- To achieve this agility, the interceptor requires rapid steering control.
- For example, the PAC-3 Missile achieves control throughout flight by utilizing its solid propellant rocket motor, aerodynamic surfaces, attitude control motors (ACMs) and inertial guidance to achieve the agility required for HTK.
- The key component to PAC-3’s agility is its 180 ACMs, which are small, short-duration rocket motors near the nose of the missile.
- They provide the agility to refine the missile’s course at the critical homing and endgame segments of flight to ensure body-to-body impact.
3. Stopping the threat
- As the missile intercepts the threat, it destroys the target through body-to-body impact, akin to a bullet hitting a bullet in mid-air.
- The body-to-body impact has extremely high kinetic energy, protecting the defended area from debris.
HTK technology is a defining advantage of Lockheed Martin missile defense systems.
- Previous air and missile defense interceptors did not have the sensing or agility components required for HTK, and instead relied on fragmentation warhead technology.
- This method attempts to disable or deflect the threat off course – this is not as accurate and can result in dangerous debris falling close to the protected area.
- Several Lockheed Martin interceptors can also achieve HTK at higher altitudes and ranges, which is important when defending against weapons of mass destruction.
Below is a visual example of the sequence that takes place when an interceptor is deployed to eliminate a threat:
The Lockheed Martin missile defense system provides a layered approach to missile defense, to ensure the protected area is safe from incoming threats.
The system is rapidly deployable, mobile, and is interoperable with all other BMDS elements, including Patriot/PAC-3, Aegis, forward-based sensors and the Command, Control, Battle Management and Communications system.
These unique capabilities make THAAD an important addition to integrated air and missile defense architectures around the world.
- The U.S. Army activated the seventh THAAD battery in December 2016.
- Lockheed Martin delivered the 200th THAAD interceptor in September of 2017.
- The United Arab Emirates was the first international partner to procure THAAD with a contract awarded in 2011.
Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 97,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.