New Missile Interceptors Eliminate Threats Before They Even Get Close
Matthew Greenwood posted on February 16, 2018 |
(Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)
(Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)

Lockheed Martin will produce and deliver state-of-the-art interceptors for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) weapon system—an important and growing component of America’s ballistic missile defense system.

The new interceptors use hit-to-kill (HTK) technology, which increases their sensing ability, agility and accuracy to allow them to hit an enemy ballistic missile directly before it even gets close to its target, eliminating the threat while keeping dangerous debris away from protected areas.

HTK works in three stages. First, the interceptor uses data from a ground-based defense system to estimate an intercept point. Once the interceptor is near its target, its onboard radar searches for and acquires the threat with such a high degree of accuracy that the interceptor can pinpoint what part of the incoming missile’s body to hit.

Second, in order to effectively intercept the threat, the interceptor uses attitude control motors (ACMs)—which are small, short-duration rocket motors near the nose of the missile—to hone in for the kill with agility and maneuverability.

Third, the interceptor destroys the target through body-to-body impact—much like hitting a bullet with a bullet. The impact has extremely high kinetic energy that protects the defended area from debris.

(Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)
(Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)

Older or less advanced interceptors do not have the capability to hit a target head on, and rely instead on proximity fragmentation, where the interceptor detonates itself close to its target to knock it out or deflect it from its path. This earlier technology is less accurate and has a higher chance of creating dangerous debris.

THAAD has been highly effective at protecting U.S. military forces, allies, population centers and infrastructure from ballistic missile attacks of all ranges, with a 100 percent interception success rate (15 out of 15) since 1999. As of December 2016, Lockheed Martin produced seven THAAD batteries, and as of September 2017, delivered at least 200 THAAD interceptors. U.S. allies, such as the United Arab Emirates, also deploy THAAD.

The Missile Defence Agency awarded Lockheed Martin a $459 million contract modification for production and delivery of the missile interceptors, bringing the total contract value to $1.28 billion.

For more futuristic military tech, check out Engineering the Soldiers of Tomorrow.

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