The typical way of shooting down incoming missiles tipped with nasty warheads involves using warheads back. But in the event those systems fail, the military now has a back-up: it’s called THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, and it protects areas the size of New Jersey using nothing more than kinetic energy. That is, it hits incoming missiles really, really hard.
The seventh and most recent test by the military and manufacturer Lockheed Martin, over Hawaii, proved the system’s ability to intercept a unitary target in the low endo-atmosphere. That’s just a bit too close for comfort in the event of an incoming missile, but it will do.
Although THAAD was designed to hit Scuds and similar weapons, it also has a limited capability against ICBMs. The actual figures are classified, but THAAD missiles have an estimated range of 125 miles (200 km), and can reach an altitude of 93 miles (150 km). As it flies, it does a calculated series of loops in order to burn off unneeded fuel.
See a short documentary on THAAD from Discovery (fast-forward to 2:35):
Of course, if kinetic energy fails, there’s always pure energy.PHOTO: Lockheed Martin