The US State Department has green-lighted Saudi Arabia’s proposed $15bn missile defence systems purchase.
THAAD anti-missile interceptors, launch systems and radar technology are all now potentially heading Saudi Arabia’s way, subject to final US Congress approval being given. It’s rare for Congress not to follow the US State Department’s lead but it has the next 30 days to intervene, if such action is deemed necessary.
Approval from US Congress would make the sovereign Arab state THAAD’s second overseas customer, after the UAE.
THAAD Missile Interceptions
THAAD stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. Equipped with a hit-to-kill warhead, THAAD missiles are designed to engage and counter incoming short-to-medium range missiles. Hit-to-kill tactics are energy-based. Instead of exploding, these warheads impact with pure kinetic energy.
THAAD development took place during the late 1980s/early ‘90s. A first THAAD flight test took place in April 1995. Successful missile intercepts started being achieved from June 1999 onwards and the technology entered US Army service in 2008.
THAAD’s name gained notoriety when, earlier in 2017, the US positioned THAAD infrastructure in South Korea, much to China’s dismay.
Saudi Arabian THAAD Package
The proposed Saudi Arabian THAAD package comprises:
44 THAAD launchers
360 missile interceptors
16 THAAD Fire Control and Communications Mobile Tactical Stations
Seven THAAD AN/TPY-2 radars
It also adds in 43 trucks, plus power units, trailers, maintenance and communications equipment, tools and spare parts.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Raytheon would be the two principal contractors.
‘This sale furthers US national security and foreign policy interests, and supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian and other regional threats’, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency explained. ‘This potential sale will substantially increase Saudi Arabia's capability to defend itself against the growing ballistic missile threat in the region."
THAAD image copyright US Army/Ralph Scott/Missile Defense Agency/US Department of Defense – courtesy Wikimedia Commons
THAAD video footage courtesy Lockheed Martin - courtesy YouTube