Lockheed to Build Missiles for More THAAD Units

by: Matthew Potter
March 23, 2011

Category: Business Line, Companies, Contract Additions, Contract Awards, Countries, Department of Defense, development program, Events, Lockheed Martin, MDA, missile defense, Services, U.S. Army, UAE | RSS 2.0

The United States has been working on developing a layered missile defense system now since the 1980’s. With the attacks by Iraq using SCUD shorter range missiles in Desert Storm there was identified a need for longer range, more capable systems then the modified PATRIOT anti-air system then primarily used to protect troops and forward installations. This led to the Army and Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to develop the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense(THAAD) system.

THAAD utilizes a much bigger radar and missile then PATRIOT and is optimized for engaging ballistic missiles at higher altitudes including exo-atmospheric conditions. Even though it remains a terminal defense system it has the ability to cover larger areas then the shorter ranged PATRIOT PAC-3.

The THAAD has had a long development period. In 1999 it entered the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) stage of the acquisition process after seven years of basic work by a team led by Lockheed Martin (LMT). In 2005 the EMD missile conducted its first flight test and the system has been in production and deployment since 2008. Two batteries have been stood up so far and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) has been the only foreign customer to express interest in the system.

The MDA is continuing production and deployment of the system and recently awarded Lockheed a contract to buy the missiles for the next two batteries. The almost $700 million contract will purchase 48 interceptors and their supporting equipment and services.

The contract illustrates that missile defense is not cheap but THAAD benefits from its longer range which means it may cover a larger area with less assets. The system will also be part of a defense that uses multiple assets that will engage the threat at different parts of its trajectory to increase the chance of a successful intercept.

Photo from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s flickr photostream.

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