The primary elements of the Midcourse Defense Segment are Ground- Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) and Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (Aegis BMD).
GMD uses a variety of satellites and radars to obtain information on launch warning, tracking, targeting, and discrimination, This information provides the Ground-Based Interceptor with the ability to locate, identify, and destroy the incoming ballistic missile warhead. The Ground-Based Interceptor is comprised of a booster vehicle and an exoatmospheric kill vehicle. It launches into space based on threat identification and command authority. The booster flies to a projected intercept point and releases the kill vehicle, which uses on-board sensors, with assistance from ground-based assets, to acquire the target. The kill vehicle performs final discrimination and steers itself to collide with the enemy warhead, destroying it by sheer force of impact.
The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense is the sea-based element of the BMDS. Aegis destroyers, on BMD patrol, detect and track ICBMs and report track data to the missile defense system. This capability shares tracking data to cue other missile defense sensors and provides fire control data to GMD interceptors. Aegis cruisers and long-range surveillance and track destroyers are being equipped with the capability to intercept short- and medium-range, unitary, and separating ballistic missile threats. Engaging missiles in the ascent phase reduces the overall BMD system’s susceptibility to countermeasures.
Terminal Phase — The primary elements in the Terminal Defense Segment are Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), PATRIOT Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3), Arrow (a joint effort between the U.S. and Israel), and Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) (a co-developmental program with Germany and Italy).
The THAAD element will provide the
BMDS with rapidly deployable groundbased
missile defense components that
deepen, extend, and compliment the
BMDS to defeat short- to intermediaterange
ballistic missiles. THAAD is a
land-based element that has the capability
to shoot down a ballistic missile, both
inside and just outside the atmosphere,
using “hit-to-kill” technology (directly
hitting the incoming missile to destroy
it), providing regional or limited-area
terminal defense. THAAD provides an
effective defense against ballistic missiles
carrying weapons of mass destruction
by making it likely that their lethal
payloads will be destroyed before reaching
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