Missile Defenders Trained, Ready for Deployment, General Says
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 5, 2013 Missile defenders preparing for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System to Guam are ready for the mission, the Army general at their home station reported, noting his full confidence in the ability of U.S. air defense systems to protect against North Korean missiles.
“We don’t know the duration of the deployment, but what we do know is that they are ready,” Army Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commander of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, Texas, said today during a news conference at the fort.
“They are trained, they are ready, and they will do the mission,” Pittard said.
The Defense Department announced earlier this week its plans to deploy a THAAD system to Guam as a precautionary move to strengthen the regional defense posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat.
All three of the Army’s THAAD batteries, part of the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, are based at Fort Bliss. The THAAD system is a land-based missile defense system that includes a truck-mounted launcher, a complement of interceptor missiles, an AN/TPY-2 tracking radar and an integrated fire control system.
Once deployed, the THAAD system will work in tandem with other missile defense systems in the region to provide multi-tiered protection, Pittard explained. Aegis cruisers and other air defense systems will provide lower-level coverage. Patriot missiles and other systems will provide defenses at slightly higher altitudes.
The THADD system operates at the next level, capable of shooting down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase. The THADD interceptors use a “hit-to-kill approach,” relying on the kinetic energy of the impact to destroy the incoming missile.
These layered air defenses could take out a missile launched by North Korea “fairly quickly,” Pittard said.
“We are very confident of that,” he added.
The THAAD deployment will strengthen defense capabilities for American citizens in the U.S. territory of Guam and U.S. forces stationed there, the Defense Department said in an April 3 news release announcing the deployment that’s expected in the coming weeks.
“The United States continues to urge the North Korean leadership to cease provocative threats and choose the path of peace by complying with its international obligations. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations, and stands ready to defend U.S. territory, allies and national interests,” the release said.
Pittard responded to questions about the THAAD deployment during a news conference announcing the largest renewable energy project in U.S. military history. Earlier this week, the Army Corps of Engineers authorized El Paso Electric to start work on a 20-megawatt solar farm on the post, which will power a large percentage of its activities.