Author Topic: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted  (Read 9555 times)

Online Chris Bergin

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THAAD INITIAL OPERATIONAL TEST AND EVALUATION CONDUCTED

The BMDS Operational Test Agency (OTA) conducted, with support of the Missile Defense Agency, an operational test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) on Oct. 5, 2011, 1:56 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.  Soldiers from Alpha Battery, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, under the operational control of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command operated the THAAD system. 

Today's event was THAAD’s first Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E).  This was an operational test, with the Army and Department of Defense test and evaluation organizations fully engaged to ensure the execution and results are representative of the fielded system. 

During the test, THAAD system engaged and simultaneously intercepted two short-range ballistic missiles. The U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and the BMDS Operational Test Agency will review data collected from this event to make an operational assessment of the THAAD system.  The Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, will also independently evaluate the operational effectiveness of the system.

News media point of contact is Pamela Rogers at 256-450-4697, 256-503-3726 (cell), pamela.rogers@mda.mil.


Offline kevin-rf

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #1 on: 10/05/2011 05:32 PM »
aaah, was wondering what the news talking heads where babbling about this morning
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Offline kevin-rf

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Offline spaceStalker

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #3 on: 10/05/2011 06:30 PM »
I like the thermal images especially when it hits.
Looking at the ball make me think that if it was real, thaad was hitting live nuclear head, what will happen then?

Offline Jim

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #4 on: 10/05/2011 06:44 PM »
I like the thermal images especially when it hits.
Looking at the ball make me think that if it was real, thaad was hitting live nuclear head, what will happen then?


Nothing different.  Nukes do not go off from impact of other objects.

Offline spaceStalker

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #5 on: 10/05/2011 07:12 PM »
Well inside the nuke there is some active material - plutonium? Will it burn or will salt the ground bellow?

Offline ugordan

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #6 on: 10/05/2011 07:18 PM »
Probably burn up given that an impact is likely to set off the high explosive charge surrounding the plutonium, dispersing and vaporizing it even before reentry. Doesn't mean the plutonium just vanishes, but it will be spread out over a largish area.

Offline Downix

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #7 on: 10/05/2011 07:45 PM »
Well inside the nuke there is some active material - plutonium? Will it burn or will salt the ground bellow?
burn up on re-entry.
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Offline iamlucky13

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #8 on: 10/05/2011 10:41 PM »
Well inside the nuke there is some active material - plutonium? Will it burn or will salt the ground bellow?
burn up on re-entry.

Correct, followed by dispersal on the wind, which isn't exactly benign since plutonium is extremely toxic and moderately radioactive, but it's several million times better than having the warhead reach its target.

Thermonuclear bombs also typically have depleted uranium in them to act as a mass tamper for the explosion and generate additional yield from fission under bombardment from fusion neutrons. Same story - toxic, slightly radioactive material dispersed over a wide area.

It's also conceivable, perhaps even likely that some some chunks of the RV and warhead may reach the ground intact.

The brightness and size of the apparent "fireball" in the video is still surprising to me given that it's a purely kinetic weapon, even after having seen several similar videos in the past. I kind of wonder how much of that perceived fireball is sensor bloom and how much is the actual diameter of the radiating cloud.

Offline ugordan

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #9 on: 10/05/2011 10:46 PM »
Thermonuclear bombs also typically have depleted uranium in them to act as a mass tamper for the explosion and generate additional yield from fission under bombardment from fusion neutrons. Same story - toxic, slightly radioactive material dispersed over a wide area.

From a health hazard standpoint, Pu-239 is much worse than U-238. It was said somewhere that the majority of depleted uranium's toxicity comes from it being a heavy metal, i.e. similar to lead, mercury, etc, not from its radioactivity.

Online mike robel

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #10 on: 10/05/2011 11:27 PM »
Sigh.  If you were in a tank hit by a sabot round with a DU penetrator AND you had your head in at the point of penetration AND you deeply inhaled before it took your head off, you would suffer the amount of radiation you get from a radium wristwatch in a year.  Or so they told us when DU rounds were introduced into our basic load and people were worried about the radiation.

If the windscreen broke (the nose cone - the penetrator itself is sort of blunt) and the penetrator cracked, then you could have a problem with beta particles lodging in the soft tissue of your respitory tracts.  We would get swipe tests if this occured to see if there was any contaminiation.  Alpha particles just bounce off your skin, and gamma rays go right through, so don't worry about those.

No one I new in my time in the Army ever reported evidence of contamination from broken DU rounds (around 10 people).


Online Chris Bergin

Sigh.  If you were in a tank hit by a sabot round with a DU penetrator AND you had your head in at the point of penetration AND you deeply inhaled before it took your head off, you would suffer the amount of radiation you get from a radium wristwatch in a year.

Heh! :)

Offline N45deg

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #12 on: 10/06/2011 01:08 AM »
Well inside the nuke there is some active material - plutonium? Will it burn or will salt the ground bellow?
burn up on re-entry.
These intercepts are not re-entry tests, just ballistic.   Also, the interceptors do not appear large enough to reach the altitude before re-entry. If these were Plutonium warheads, and destruction occurred in the lower atmosphere, it would be a environmental disaster in the area.  One microscopic Plutonium particle in you lung is a guarantee for lung cancer.  A re-entry burn up in the atmosphere could be even worse, since the Plutonium does not burn into nothing, it just breaks down to smaller and smaller particles at a higher altitude, making the danger more widespread.

Offline Targeteer

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #13 on: 10/06/2011 01:50 AM »
Well inside the nuke there is some active material - plutonium? Will it burn or will salt the ground bellow?
burn up on re-entry.
If these were Plutonium warheads, and destruction occurred in the lower atmosphere, it would be a environmental disaster in the area.   

The environmental damage would be catastrophic if those warheads weren't intercepted and survived to detonate.
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Offline jcm

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #14 on: 10/06/2011 02:05 AM »
Interesting. The THAADs appear to have been launched from the same truck, at least
10 s apart (but probably much more as there was an edit in the video).
Presumably the two targets were launched from two different platforms? They have been using the ship launch (MLP) and the C-17 air launch platform, AFAIK
they only have one of each and I don't know if the MLP can do two launches at once.
I don't think they have any land based pads they can use except at Kauai itself
which would be a bit *too* short-range :-).

edit: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-10-05/lockheed-s-thaad-missile-defense-hits-two-targets-in-test.html reports indeed that the first target was air-launched and the second one sea-launched. No reports I can see of how close together the launches were.
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Offline jjnodice

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #15 on: 10/06/2011 11:45 AM »
MDA finally got the video added to their THAAD media site:

http://www.mda.mil/news/gallery_thaad.html#Video11

Compared to the one on Fox News this one has wide angle footage of both launches.

This program had major problems in the mid to late 1990's.  It is very satisfying to see how well it is performing now. :)

Offline Lurker Steve

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #16 on: 10/06/2011 02:27 PM »
MDA finally got the video added to their THAAD media site:

http://www.mda.mil/news/gallery_thaad.html#Video11

Compared to the one on Fox News this one has wide angle footage of both launches.

This program had major problems in the mid to late 1990's.  It is very satisfying to see how well it is performing now. :)

THAAD is really just an upgrade or replacement to the old Patriot missle defense systems that were used in the first gulf war, right ? Perhaps they are more accurate, but we are still targetting SCUD-class missles here, right ?

Offline jjnodice

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #17 on: 10/06/2011 03:15 PM »
THAAD is really just an upgrade or replacement to the old Patriot missle defense systems that were used in the first gulf war, right ?

THAAD is not a PAC-3 replacement or an upgrade.  It is a totally different system.  The two systems complement each other.  The US has a multi-tiered approach to ballistic missile defense.  THAAD & Patriot make up the land based lower tier systems.

The need for THAAD was made apparent during the 1991 Gulf War that exposed Patriot's inability to defend a large area vs ballistic missiles.  Patriot is good for point defense.  THAAD's niche is expanded coverage area (AREA is part of the acronym).

Perhaps they are more accurate, but we are still targetting SCUD-class missles here, right ?
The stated threat set for THAAD are short-range and medium-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs and MRBMs).  No airbreathers unlike Patriot. 


« Last Edit: 10/06/2011 03:17 PM by jjnodice »

Offline iamlucky13

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #18 on: 10/06/2011 11:28 PM »
If these were Plutonium warheads, and destruction occurred in the lower atmosphere, it would be a environmental disaster in the area.  One microscopic Plutonium particle in you lung is a guarantee for lung cancer.  A re-entry burn up in the atmosphere could be even worse, since the Plutonium does not burn into nothing, it just breaks down to smaller and smaller particles at a higher altitude, making the danger more widespread.

It would be a major environmental concern requiring immediate response to identify what areas were being exposed and protect the residents, but disaster is an exaggeration. It is indeed a severe ingestion hazard, but it is not true that any arbitrarily small particle causes lung cancer. As always, cancer from radiological exposure is probabilistic, and the risk is believed to increase linearly with dose. It is conceivable that a few cancer cases may result, but certainly nothing compared to if the weapon successfully detonated.

For some perspective, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki released about 300 curies of unfissioned plutonium (only about 20% of the plutonium fissioned). A modern bomb would be comparable, but not more than a couple times the total material. This is compared to several million curies of fission products and induced radioactive isotopes produced by the explosion itself. Another data point to consider is the 8-17 million curies believed to have been released by the Fukushima accident...tens of thousands as many times as much radioactivity.

Offline iamlucky13

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Re: THAAD Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Conducted
« Reply #19 on: 10/06/2011 11:59 PM »
THAAD is really just an upgrade or replacement to the old Patriot missle defense systems that were used in the first gulf war, right ?

THAAD is not a PAC-3 replacement or an upgrade.  It is a totally different system.  The two systems complement each other.  The US has a multi-tiered approach to ballistic missile defense.  THAAD & Patriot make up the land based lower tier systems.

The need for THAAD was made apparent during the 1991 Gulf War that exposed Patriot's inability to defend a large area vs ballistic missiles.  Patriot is good for point defense.  THAAD's niche is expanded coverage area (AREA is part of the acronym).

PAC-3 was a major variant on the older versions (PAC-2, PAC-1, and the initial system) of the Patriot surface to air missile system, which is probably the reason for the confusion.

The missile itself is completely new, designed to destroy targets by direct impact instead of proximity fused blast-and-fragmentation. The older missiles (PAC-2 and prior) have a huge (200 pound) explosive/frag warhead and a long range (over 150km), and needed to be huge. The PAC-3 has a smaller warhead and quite a bit less range. The radar is common between versions, and I believe the launcher is common, too, except it holds 16 PAC-3 missiles compared to 4 PAC-2 missiles.

As I understand it, the Army's short term plan is to keep all three missiles in service - THAAD for defense against ballistic missiles at long ranges, PAC-3 for ballistic missiles at short ranges, and PAC-2 for defense against aircraft and cruise missiles.

The hit-to-kill technique arose out of questionable effectiveness of blast/frag warheads against missiles. Fragments can do a lot of damage to the distributed systems of an aircraft, but might do very little to the dense warhead of a missile. THAAD and PAC-3 are supposedly accurate enough to steer directly at the warhead portion of a target.

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