UPDATED — This story has been updated to include a statement from Lockheed Martin.
WASHINGTON — After a failed test in February, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the Army successfully intercepted a target in an Oct. 1 test using a Patriot air and missile defense system as well as a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system integrated together, according to an MDA statement.
In the test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, the THAAD AN/TPY-2 radar detected and tracked a Black Dagger target missile and provided that information to the Patriot system. The Patriot launch system deployed a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement missile and destroyed the target.
In February, the AN/TPY-2 detected and tracked a Black Dagger and supplied the information to the Patriot system, but the missile missed the target “due to an interceptor software upgrade error,” according to the MDA statement.
The error “has since been corrected, as demonstrated by today’s successful intercept,” the statement noted.
The success of the test "validates the interoperability of the Patriot and THAAD weapon systems,” MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said in the statement. “This capability is vital to the Ballistic Missile Defense System to defend against rogue threats to our homeland, deployed forces and allies.”
“We’re proud to support the Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Army Program Executive Office Missiles and Space to provide this vital capability within the Ballistic Missile Defense System,” Scott Arnold, Lockheed Martin vice president of integrated missile defense in the company’s Missiles and Fire Control business, said in statement. Lockheed Martin manufactures the THAAD weapon system.
The missile tests this year meet a congressional requirement for the Army and the MDA to test integration and interoperability of the THAAD and Patriot weapon systems annually.
Last year, the first-ever test of THAAD’s ability to remotely fire an interceptor was a success, a significant milestone in proving the ability to decouple launchers from radars and fire control systems.
The Army’s work to integrate the Patriot and THAAD systems was born out of an urgent operational need on the Korean Peninsula.
The effort uses some of the principles of decoupling launchers and radars so an operator, for instance, can use a THAAD radar — which can see farther than a Raytheon-made Patriot radar — but decide to engage a Patriot interceptor depending on the threat picture.
The ability to use the THAAD radar also gets more out of the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement weapon fired from Patriot units, which outperforms the organic Patriot radar.
In another test last year at White Sands, a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Cost Reduction Initiative interceptor took out an air-breathing threat at a record distance. That test also showed it can be integrated into the Northrop Grumman-made Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, which is the command-and-control system of the Army’s future air and missile defense architecture.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.