The U.S. Army 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) and Joint Region Marianas will deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) launcher and associated personnel and equipment to Rota International Airport in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) early March. A C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 15th Wing based out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawai’i will move the equipment from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to Rota International Airport. This operation will allow the 94th AAMDC to gather valuable data and inform future deployments of THAAD Remote Launch packages throughout the theater. Rota is about 40 nautical miles north-northeast of Guam. The 5-mile-wide island is home to more than 1,800 people. It’s unclear how much military personnel will be deployed to Rota.
Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson, the senior military official in Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Joint Region Marianas Commander, said, “Missile defense is the number one priority for Indo-Pacific command in this region and testing THAAD’s remote launch ability bolsters our defense of CNMI, fortifying our layered defense in the region.”
Brig. Gen. Mark Holler, commanding general of 94th AAMDC said, “There is no more important mission than the defense of the homeland – and exercising THAAD’s remote launch capability allows us to enhance the effectiveness of a combat-tested, upper-tier missile defense system that is vital to the Army’s ability to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), formerly Theater High Altitude Area Defense, is an American anti-ballistic missile defense system designed to shoot down short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase (descent or reentry) 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 an impact to destroy the incoming missile. A kinetic energy hit minimizes the risk of exploding conventional-warhead ballistic missiles, and the warhead of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles will not detonate upon a kinetic energy hit. Originally a United States Army program, THAAD has come under the umbrella of the Missile Defense Agency.
The US is sending a missile shield to the Pacific island of Guam as North Korea threatens nuclear strikes. North Korea had named Guam among a list of possible targets for the attack that included Hawaii and the US mainland. North Korea is not thought to have the technology to strike the US mainland with either a nuclear weapon or a ballistic missile. But it is capable of targeting US military bases in the region with its mid-range missiles. In April 2013, the United States declared that Alpha Battery, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment (A-4), would be deployed to Guam to defend against a possible North Korean IRBM attack targeting the island. In March 2014, Alpha Battery, 2nd ADA RGT (A-2), did a change of responsibility with A-4 and took over the Defense of Guam Mission. After a successful 12-month deployment by A-4, Delta 2 (D-2) took its place for a 12-month deployment. In 2018-2019 Echo Battery, 3rd ADA Regiment (E-3) deployed to Guam.