The South Korean government has began a formal environmental survey on the advanced U.S. missile defense system deployed in a southern town amid a fierce protest by local residents and activists on Saturday, officials said.
The defense and environment ministries were to conduct their joint study of electromagnetic radiation and noise from the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Seongju, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, according to them.
Two rocket launchers and a powerful X-band radar are operational at the new U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) base, formerly a private golf course.
A “small-scale” environmental impact assessment has been under way there since December under South Korean law. The planned on-site survey is to verify the results of the evaluation by a local contractor.
According to the officials, a group of 30 ministry officials, researchers, county officials and reporters, arrived at the THAAD deployment site by helicopter at around 9:30 a.m. After verifying the environmental impact evaluation results, the group was to disclose the outcome at the scene, they noted.
Earlier on Thursday, the government postponed the environmental survey plan because of bad weather and fierce protests from activists and local residents who have demanded that the government scrap the THAAD deployment in the area.
Following weeks of inter-agency discussions, the government has decided to conduct an additional environmental evaluation, a process that will take several more months, before consulting with the USFK on changing the “tentative” THAAD deployment to a permanent basis.
Meanwhile, Thomas Vandal, commander of the Eighth U.S. Army, held a news conference in Seongju and offered an apology on behalf of an American soldier, who grinned as he used his mobile phone to film residents protesting against the THAAD deployment on April 26.
But Seongju residents refused to accept his apology, dismissing it as “meaningless.”
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), formerly Theater High Altitude Area Defense, is a anti-ballistic missile defense system designed to shoot down short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase by intercepting with a hit-to-kill approach.
THAAD was developed after the experience of Iraq’s Scud missile attacks during the Gulf War in 1991. The THAAD interceptor carries no warhead, but relies on its kinetic energy of impact to destroy the incoming missile. A kinetic energy hit minimizes the risk of exploding conventional warhead ballistic missiles, and nuclear tipped ballistic missiles will not detonate upon a kinetic energy hit.
Each THAAD system is comprised of five major components: interceptors, launchers, a radar, a fire control unit and support equipment, according to Lockheed Martin, the security and aerospace company that serves as the prime contractor for the equipment. Key subcontractors include Raytheon, Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Honeywell, BAE Systems, Oshkosh Defense, MiltonCAT and the Oliver Capital Consortium.
The radar first detects an incoming missile, those manning the system identify the threat then a launcher mounted to a truck fires a projectile, which Lockheed Martin calls an “interceptor,” at the ballistic missile in the hopes of destroying it using kinetic energy — basically just its sheer speed.
THAAD Missile Defense System Explained:
THAAD Missile Defense Test: File Video
Source: Yonhap News Agency