The Importance of THAAD to US National Security

Joe Burtzlaff

As tensions between the US and North Korea continue to escalate, the US military is training and preparing for a possible conflict with the north. The US regularly conducts ground, air, and naval training exercises with South Korea and Japan, two US allies in the region. While actions like the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group attract headlines, the US recently deployed something else just as important to the Korean Peninsula: THAAD, which stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. It’s more than just an acronym, here’s why THAAD is important to US national security.

THAAD is an anti-ballistic missile system designed to shoot down short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles. It is designed to shoot the missiles down in their intermediate phase using a hit-to-kill approach. THAAD missiles carry no warhead, as they purely rely on the kinetic energy of the impact destroy the incoming missile. By relying on kinetic energy instead of a charged explosion, there is a minimal risk of exploding the warhead on an incoming missile, and nuclear warheads will not detonate from a kinetic energy hit. THAAD uses advanced radar systems to detect missile launches and then uses GPS to guide the the THAAD missile to the incoming enemy missile.

In March 2017, the US deployed THAAD to South Korea, responding to provocative missile tests by North Korea, and to provide further security to the region. By having THAAD in South Korea, the US increases their defense capability and response time to a North Korean nuclear launch. By being able to swiftly respond to any North Korean launch, the US can take away North Korea’s first strike capability, leaving them extremely vulnerable to a US retaliatory strike, which would greatly deter them from launching any missile in the first place. THAAD greatly minimizes North Korea’s offensive capabilities and gives the US even more of an advantage in a potential nuclear conflict.

As a conflict between the US and North Korea becomes more and more possible, the US is doing everything to improve security for their allies as well as their own troops stationed in the region. With the deployment of THAAD, the US is able to quickly respond to any North Korean launch and shoot the missile down, all without detonating the warhead attached to it. That is the importance of THAAD to US national security.