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The US Army's Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system that has been deployed in South Korea is the most advanced interceptor in the world and is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of their approach to a target. The need for the system was identified as far back as the mid-1980s but gained new momentum in 1991 when Iraqi forces launched attacks against coalition targets with Russian-built Scud missiles during the Gulf War. Developed primarily by Lockheed Martin, with input from a number of other companies, including BAE Systems, a THAAD interceptor carries no warhead but relies on advanced infra-red tracking to intercept its target and the kinetic energy of the impact to destroy the inbound missile. A kinetic energy strike minimises the risk of detonating a conventional warhead, while it will also not trigger an explosion of a nuclear warhead. Each missile weighs just over 1,980lbs and is 20 feet long. The system has an operational range of around 125 miles and a missile travels at Mach 8.24 - or slightly more than 6,260mph - to its target. THAAD missile defence system A single battery is made up six launchers that are mounted on a truck, 48 missiles, an AN/TPY-2 radar unit and associated command and communications facilities. The US initially planned to deploy THAAD in 2012, but development was sufficiently rapid that the first battery was delivered to the US Army, at Fort Bliss in Texas, in 2008. THAAD batteries have been deployed in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and, most recently, South Korea. Seoul initially approached the Pentagon about the capabilities and cost of THAAD in October 2013, but later decided to develop its own long-range, surface-to-air missile. The crisis on the Korean Peninsula has deepened far more rapidly than Seoul anticipated, however, and the US and South Korean defence ministries agreed in July 2016 that THAAD would need to be deployed by the end of the following year. America begins testing its missile interception defence 00:41 That decision triggered concern and protests at home and abroad. People living near the planned site of the new unit, a golf course in North Gyeongsang Province purchased by the South Korean government specifically for the battery, have protested that the unit's radar is harmful to their health. They have also complained that siting THAAD close to their towns, about 180 miles southeast of Seoul, makes them a target for a North Korean first strike. The mayor of one nearby town briefly went on hunger strike to protest the decision, but opposition has waned after North Korea's recent provocations. The Chinese government has protested more fiercely, with Beijing insisting that THAAD's radar can be used to monitor the movements of its military within China and that the deployment will further destabilise the region. US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system equipment is seen at a former golf course in the southern county of Seongju on September 4, 2017 Credit: AFP The South Korean government has tried to play down those concerns, although Beijing remains adamant that THAAD should be removed from South Korea. To back up its demand, China has imposed a number of undeclared economic sanctions on South Korea, including banning domestic travel agents from selling tours to South Korea. Beijing insists, however, that the measures are not sanctions and are unconnected to the THAAD dispute. In early September, South Korea's Environment Ministry granted permission for the deployment of THAAD to go ahead. Previously, only two batteries were operational, but the introduction of a further four units was to go ahead from later in the month.
Original Article: What is THAAD? South Korea's best defence against a missile attackNEXT ARTICLE