MDA Plans to Move THAAD, Patriot Testing to Alaska from New Mexico

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - 08:45

Inside Defense.com - Defensealert

The Missile Defense Agency wants to establish Alaska as the new home for testing elements of the Ballistic Missile Defense System -- the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot systems -- currently evaluated at military ranges in New Mexico and Hawaii.

On Jan. 13, MDA published a proposed Environmental Impact Statement finding "no significant impacts to the environment are expected" as a result of using the Pacific Spaceport Complex -- on Alaska's Kodiak Island -- for future flight tests, including as many as two per year over the next decade.

"The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is proposing to conduct defensive weapon system flight tests of various Ballistic Missile Defense systems from the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska (PSCA) on Kodiak Island, and intercepting target missiles in the broad ocean area generally south of Kodiak Island," according to a "notice of availability" MDA published.

Previous THAAD tests have been conducted at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Why is MDA eyeing Alaska?

"MDA chose PSCA for future THAAD tests based on its location and cost," said MDA spokeswoman Leah Garton.

Ballistic missile defense interceptors launched from Kodiak will not fly over populated areas, she added. "All launches from PSCA are over the Gulf of Alaska and the North Pacific Ocean and it is the only facility in the United States that has the unrestricted range capability to support MDA's unique mission requirements."

Assuming MDA clears this environmental hurdle, test flights in Alaska could begin this year.

"Pending completion of required environmental studies, MDA plans to execute two flight tests of the THAAD system at PSCA in late fiscal year 2017," according to Garton.