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THAAD Now 0 for 6; PAC-3 Test Successful
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On March 29, the Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system failed to intercept a ballistic missile target at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The most mature of the "upper-tier" theater missile defense (TMD) systems, THAAD has now failed all six intercept tests dating back to December 1995. The interceptor reportedly missed its HERA missile target by 10 to 30 meters, underscoring the difficulty of hitting a "bullet with a bullet" at long ranges and high speeds.

Secretary of Defense William Cohen announced on January 20 that THAAD, which has had nine flight tests thus far, and the sea-based TMD system Navy Theater Wide will be reviewed together next year to determine which should be the lead upper-tier TMD system. The Pentagon hopes to field such a system by 2007.

Two weeks earlier, on March 15, the Army's Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system successfully intercepted a HERA missile target at White Sands, even though this was not the primary objective of its third flight test. The intercept illustrated the feasibility of "hit-to-kill" technology at much shorter ranges and lower speeds. Sixteen intercept tests are planned for PAC-3, one of the core "lower-tier" TMD systems, before its deployment in 2001.