The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense element of America’s missile defense system successfully shot down an Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile target from Alaska this morning, according to a statement by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. It’s good news, but it’s not a full safeguard against an increasingly belligerent North Korea.
An Air Force C-17 fired the target over the Pacific Ocean and a THAAD system in Kodiak, Alaska detected and shot it down. Launcher, fire control and radar operations were conducted by soldiers from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade out of Fort Bliss, Texas.
This was the 14th straight successful interception of a missile target since 2006.
But as Foxtrot Alpha has consistently reported, we can’t put too much stock in these missile defense tests, be it THAAD or the Ground-midcourse Defense system.
The agency says today’s successful THAAD intercept was conducted using procedures they’d undertake in real combat conditions, but that is impossible. Neither North Korea or Russia would let us know when they planned on launching a real nuclear weapon at the United States. And the Missile Defense Agency also wouldn’t have the luxury of knowing in advance which delivery system would carry out the launch.
Moreover, we aren’t sure if THAAD could take out more than one missile at a time. Or, say, 15 of them at once.
Simply put: Washington can’t rely on missile defense alone to address its issues with Pyongyang.
But, for now, this is where we are. It is promising that THAAD can take out an IRBM in a simulated situation. But, hopefully, the Trump administration will eventually lean on diplomacy even more so that THAAD won’t ever have to be an option in the first place.