April 26, 2011: South Korea is spending over $2 billion to improve its anti-missile defenses. This will include expansion of existing Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile missile and Aegis systems on warships. One new system with be the U.S. THAAD (Theater High Altitude Air Defense). This will stop longer range North Korean ballistic missiles. THAAD went into production only four years ago.
Each THAAD battery has 24 missiles, three launchers and a fire control communications system. This includes an X-Band radar. The gear for each battery will cost $310 million. The six meter (18 foot) long THAAD missiles weigh 636 kg (1,400 pounds) each. This is about the same size as the Patriot anti-aircraft missile, but twice the weight of the anti-missile version of the Patriot. The range of THAAD is 200 kilometers, max altitude is 150 kilometers, and it is intended for short (like SCUD) or medium range (up to 2,000 kilometer) range ballistic missiles.
THAAD has been in development for two decades. Ultimately, the U.S. Army would like to buy at least 18 launchers, 1,400 missiles, and 18 radars. THAAD is bleeding edge technology, and aside from some successful tests, the system has to wait until it gets some combat experience before it is accepted and trusted. Testing continues, and these first two combat batteries can be deployed in potential hot spots (like South Korea and the Persian Gulf.) The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has already ordered THAAD.
South Korea is also ordering an Israeli early warning radar system, that will also serve as a central command and control system for anti-missile defenses.