The ground-based defence system THAAD is rapidly deployable with high mobility. Image Credit: Reuters file

Dubai: US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has said Washington will send more military assets to the Middle East in support of Israel and strengthen the US defence posture in the region after “recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces” — a reference to Hezbollah and Palestinian militants.

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system and additional Patriot air defence missile system battalions will be sent to the region and more troops put on standby, Austin said on Saturday.

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Washington has already deployed a significant amount of naval power to the Middle East in recent weeks, including two aircraft carriers, their support ships and about 2,000 Marines.

What is THAAD?

THAAD is a missile system that targets incoming ballistic missiles in their terminal phase.

The ground-based defence system is rapidly deployable with high mobility.

How does it work?

THAAD intercepts and destroys a ballistic missile in its final phase of flight, either inside or just outside the earth’s atmosphere.

It is a transportable system and incorporates an X-band radar, the AN/TPY-2, and a single-stage, hit-to-kill interceptor to defeat ballistic missiles inside or outside of the atmosphere.

THAAD occupies a middle tier in the United States’ Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMDS), covering a larger defended area than the Patriot, while serving as an underlay for the exoatmospheric Aegis BMD and GMD systems.

In flight tests, it has demonstrated capability against short, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

What are its components?

Each THAAD system consists of interceptors, launchers, a radar, a fire control unit and support equipment. Its role is to simply track and destroy missiles.

First, by using radar, threats will be identified by those manning the system, who will then fire a projectile from a truck called the interceptor to intercept the incoming missiles.

The interceptor by using its kinetic energy destroys the incoming ballistic missile. Hence it is considered safer as it does not make use of warheads to destroy missiles.

How is it different from Iron Dome?

The THAAD is also interoperable with other ballistic missile defence systems. So, it will provide the critical capability to defend against short and medium ranged ballistic missiles.

It can intercept missiles inside and outside the atmosphere.

The THAAD system in many ways is similar to Israel’s missile defence system called Iron Dome, which is in operation since 2011.

Iron Dome helps Israel to prevent Gaza attacking Israel’s urban and highly sensitive areas and has a much shorter detection range than THAAD and serves the purpose of intercepting short and medium range missiles.

What’s Patriot air defence missile system?

First deployed in the 1980s, the Patriot is a surface-to-air guided missile system that can target aircraft, cruise missiles and shorter-range ballistic missiles.

Each Patriot battery consists of a truck-mounted launch system with eight launchers that can hold up to four missile interceptors each, a ground radar, a control station and a generator.

A 2018 International Institute for Strategic Studies report found battalions operate 50 batteries, which have more than 1,200 missile interceptors.