U.S. troops have recently been able to test the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery's remote control for the first time as part of joint exercises with South Korea, the U.S. Forces Korea said last Friday. It was the first deployment test since the battery was installed here in 2017. A South Korean military officer said, "We urgently needed to beef up air defenses against North Korean missiles in the face of the growing nuclear and missile threat." THAAD missile interceptors were moved to a site dozens of kilometers from the base in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province and remotely controlled from the base. That allows the battery to defend a much larger area. Some remotely controlled THAAD interceptors are deployed on a Pacific island some 70 km from their base on Guam. Until recently, the interceptors were connected with the control center by cables, which raised concerns that the capital region was out of THAAD's operational range of about 200 km.
The new tests were made possible after the government broke years of highly ritualized stalemate due to protestors who blocked the sole access road to the base, allowing personnel and materials to be brought in last October.The THAAD battery consists of six missile interceptors. According to local residents, U.S. troops moved the interceptors from the base around March 15 and returned them on March 23. "In the face of [North Korea's] advanced missile threats, the training of our THAAD forces enhanced the units' combat readiness, combined defense posture within the alliance, demonstrates the ironclad commitment to support and defend [South Korea] and further strengthens the security and stability on the Korean Peninsula," the USFK said in a press release.To make the base fully operational, the Defense Ministry will this month finish a full-scale environmental impact assessment, which had been fatally skipped by the Park Geun-hye administration, leading to years of wrangling and inertia.