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Pentagon says interceptor deployment is "just in case" type rollout

In recent months an increasingly bellicose North Korea has defiantly tested intercontinental ballistic missilesblew up trial nuclear warheadsscrapped a sixty-year-old armistice with the U.S. and its southern neighbor, and -- most recently -- restarted a mothballed nuclear reactor used in production of material for nuclear weapons.

As the threats from North Korea increase, the U.S. has deployed a truck-based, radar-driven interceptor missile system to Guam.  According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the system will protect the island territory of the U.S. if North Korea attempts to attack it with a ballistic missile, as threatened.  The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAADS) fires on a target rocket when it's in its terminal descent phase, plunging towards the defended territory.

The THAADS system is produced by top defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT).

THAADS
The U.S. has deployed the THAADS interceptor trucks to Guam. 
[Image Source: Lockheed Martin]

While U.S. defense experts doubt North Korea would be able to hit the U.S. mainland with a nuclear missile, Guam -- 2,000 away from the hostile Asian dictatorship -- might be a slightly more feasible target.  Both South Korea and Japan have extensive interceptor systems, which are likely on high alert.

U.S. ally Israel provided the most impressive real-world demonstration of a missile-interception system to date.  Its "Iron Dome" system shot down approximately 9 out of 10 missiles that were headed towards a populated region.  Past interceptor systems used in the Persian Gulf conflicts by the U.S. had lower success rates.

Ballistic missile interception is a more unproven art.  Ballistic missiles are bigger (and hence a bigger target), but are also generally faster than the kind of small rockets Iron Dome or Patriot-missile (U.S.) interceptor systems target. Israel has an interceptor system of its own dubbed Arrow, which the U.S. co-founded and shares technology from.  Fortunately, that system has never been called upon in a real war scenario.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense





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