WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (KRQE) – The controversial THAAD missile defense system being deployed in South Korea spent more than a decade in testing at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico.
The “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense” (THAAD) system’s time in New Mexico stretched from 1995 to 2006 and was plagued early on by numerous system problems. At one point, the Defense Department considered scrapping the program.
Developer Lockheed Martin was able to solve the issues during several flight tests in New Mexico. After the program moved from New Mexico to the Pacific in 2006, THAAD was regularly knocking target warheads out of the sky.
THAAD does not have warheads of its own, but instead actually physically hits an incoming warhead, destroying both devices in a massively energetic collision. The system is designed to reach out farther than other defenses like the Patriot missile defense system that earned acclaim during the Gulf Wars. THAAD is designed to engage enemy warheads as far as 125 miles away.
The THAAD home base in the U.S. is at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.