Battlesppace Tech

Lasers sharpen the focus for missile defense system

Army THAAD missile defense

Key components of a U.S. Army theater air defense system appear to be falling in the place.

A small Wisconsin laser specialist said Sept. 23 it has received an order from a subcontractor for the laser-guided Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system being built by Lockheed Martin Corp. Alfalight Inc. of Madison said it would deliver lasers under a $3.7 million contract awarded by Lockheed Martin subcontractor Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Co.

Pacific Scientific is providing THAAD's Laser Initiated Ordnance System that provides the missile defense interceptor missile with a laser system used to ignite explosive charges when a target is engaged.

Lockheed Martin received a multibillion contract in September 2013 to produce elements of THAAD for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Despite the fact that it is intended as a theater defense against shorter-range threats, THAAD is being touted by proponents as the only ballistic missile defense system capable of intercepting incoming missiles from both within and outside the earth’s atmosphere. However, intercepting an ICBM on a ballistic trajectory would likely only occur during the weapon's terminal phase.

Since 2005, program officials said THAAD has completed 11 successful intercepts in 11 attempts.

THAAD became operational in Guam last year. Exports to UAE are expected to begin by the end of 2014.

About the Author

George Leopold is a contributing editor for Defense Systems and author of Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom."Connect with him on Twitter at @gleopold1.

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