Home Americas US Army, MDA ace live-fire intercept with THAAD-PAC-3 MSE combo

US Army, MDA ace live-fire intercept with THAAD-PAC-3 MSE combo

FTT-21 THAAD PAC-3 MSE illustration
Photo: Screengrab

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the US Army validated the integration of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 Missile Segment Enhanced (MSE) interceptors in a live-fire test at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

The test, designated Flight Test THAAD Weapon System (FTT)-21, took place on Tuesday. According to the agencies involved, preliminary results indicate that flight test objectives were achieved as the THAAD and PAC-3 MSE combo intercepted a Black Dagger target.

“The success of the flight test marks a critical milestone for the integration of the THAAD and Patriot weapon systems,” said MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill. “The integration of the PAC-3 MSE interceptor into the THAAD weapon system provides the combatant commands and soldiers on the ground the capability to use the right missile for the right threat at the right time. This was a complex capability to develop, and I commend the MDA team, US Army soldiers and civilians, and our industry partners for their stellar dedication to the mission.”

FTT-21 is the first live intercept flight test of a software build that provides the capability for the THAAD weapon system to compute PAC-3 MSE firing solutions, communicate with an M903 patriot launching station, and simultaneously control multiple PAC-3 MSE interceptors in flight.

THAAD system successfully launched a PAC-3 MSE to intercept a tactical ballistic missile target using proven Hit-to-Kill technology without the support of a Patriot fire unit, yielding greater flexibility for the warfighter. Integration into the THAAD Weapon System allows the PAC-3 MSE to launch earlier, enabling a longer flyout and the full use of the MSE’s kinematic capability.

The integration of the PAC-3 MSE interceptor into the THAAD weapon system enables the warfighter to launch the PAC-3 MSE interceptor earlier enabling a longer fly-out time which in turns increases the defended area or battlespace.

According to MDA, this new capability is directly applicable to addressing current threat environments with an enhanced, layered defense.

Lockheed Martin, one of the contractors on the program, noted that the test also validated the flexibility of the PAC-3 missiles, which have now successfully launched from THAAD, Patriot and the US Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) in flight tests.

Several flight tests led to today’s integration of PAC-3 MSE within THAAD. In a 2020 flight test, a PAC-3 MSE intercepted a target using data provided by THAAD. In an earlier test this year, THAAD launched a PAC-3 MSE interceptor against a virtual threat, demonstrating the integration of the PAC-3 MSE interceptor into the THAAD system.

THAAD is the only US system designed for endo-and exo-battlespace, using hit-to-kill technology to intercept a threat with direct impact.