The U.S. Defense Department has released photos and video of the first parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense system arriving in South Korea.
The several photos and three-minute video depict what appears to be two of the truck-mounted launchers leaving the back of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft at Osan Air Base in South Korea.
The Lockheed Martin Corp.-made equipment arrived Monday night, barely a day after North Korea successfully test-fired four ballistic missiles from a site in Tongchang-Ri almost 1,000 kilometers (about 620 miles) into the Sea of Japan. (A total of five were slated for launch, but one failed.)
Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, hailed the development, calling it “a positive step forward for U.S.-ROK cooperation to confront North Korea’s escalating missile threat.”
In an essay on the website medium.com, the Senator also pushed back against opposition to the deployment from China.
“The reality is that this missile defense system is only necessary because China has aided and abetted North Korea for decades. If China has genuine concerns about the deployment of THAAD in South Korea, it should cease its attempts to undermine South Korea’s sovereign ability to defend itself and use its considerable influence to pressure North Korea to stop its destabilizing behavior.”
The arrival of the hardware also coincided with annual U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle involving some 17,000 American troops, according to U.S. Forces Korea. The former is slated to wrap up next week while the latter — a series of field training exercises with ground, air, naval and special operations units — is set to continue through the end of April.
In use by the U.S. Army for almost a decade, THAAD has a range of less than 200 kilometers (125 miles) and is designed to target medium-range ballistic missiles. The system is designed to eliminate threats in part through a high rate of firepower. A battery typically consists of six truck-mounted launchers, 48 interceptors (eight per launcher), a fire control and communications unit, and an AN/TPY-2 radar.
In addition to Korea, Japan is also considering fielding the technology. The system is also drawing interest from customers in the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates became the first international buyer of the system in 2011, according to Lockheed.
THAAD may become operational on South Korea next month in a rural area almost 200 miles south of Seoul.