On Tuesday, Lockheed Martin and the Missile Defense Agency successfully tested their Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Weapon System in Hawaii. Since 2005 there have been 11 THAAD flight tests with a 100% success rate in intercepting a missile.
Not only did this test continue the perfect record of missile intercepts, but it demonstrated the ability to target a missile in the lower “endo-atmosphere.” While previous tests only have been attempted in the outer “exo-atmosphere,” this most recent test demonstrates the greatest level of operational flexibility yet achieved by U.S. missile defense systems. This has not been the only success as of late for the Missile Defense Agency. The Standard Missile-3 interceptor, used aboard naval ships, has been successful in nine out of the last ten tests.
Missile defense is a vital asset in the U.S. defense arsenal. A total of 28 countries have ballistic missile capabilities. To name just one country, North Korea has over 1,000 missiles and is selling missiles and technology to other countries. The threat is there and the technology exists to respond to the threat. 33 minutes. That is all that it would take for a ballistic missile launched from the other side of the world to reach the United States. For all the uncertainties that exist in the security environment of the 21st century, from global health to cyber security, there is little reason to be unprepared for a threat of this nature. Given the latest round of success in missile defense testing, it is time this administration invested more heavily in a comprehensive system.
Ricky Trotman is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm