WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army's missile defense system capable of taking out targets in the last phase of flight intercepted a threat target on Tuesday in a Missile Defense Agency test out of Kodiak, Alaska, according to Lockheed Martin, the system's manufacturer.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system at Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska "detected, tracked and intercepted" a threat target designed to represent an intermediate-range ballistic missile, a first for THAAD, according to a company statement.
The interceptor "destroyed the target's reentry vehicle with sheer force of a direct collision," the statement reads.
The test marks the 14th successful intercept in 14 attempts for THAAD since 2005.
THAAD has recently made its way into the news in more ways than one. Its deployment to South Korea to protect its border with North Korea has angered China, one of the North's biggest trading partners. Its continued presence there is on shaky ground.
And THAAD was listed as one of the weapon systems Saudi Arabia would like to buy as part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s reported $110 billion arms deal with the Middle Eastern nation. The country wants seven batteries, which is the same number the U.S. Army plans to procure.
Lockheed experienced some recent difficulties building the interceptors for the THAAD system — one related to a U.S. government-requested firmware upgrade to its mission computer and another stemming from an issue with a subcontractor manufacturing process — that resulted in delays delivering interceptors.
Yet Lockheed recently told Defense News those challenges are behind them and the company is now increasing production and deliveries of THAAD interceptors, with plans to complete the fiscal 2016 deliveries by August of this year.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.