A medium-range ballistic missile was air launched by a US Air Force C-17 over the Pacific Ocean in order to test the THAAD weapon system.

Capt. Stephen Koether, 418th Flight Test Squadron, C-17 experimental test pilot said:

“High altitude, heavy weight airdrop is something we’re doing a lot of here at Edwards, supporting not only MDA, but NASA with the Orion capsule drops that we’ve been doing out at Yuma. Dropping something that heavy at that high of an altitude is not trivial, and the test center, specifically, is getting very good at those unique missions.”

MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said:

“In addition to successfully intercepting the target, the data collected will allow MDA to enhance the THAAD weapon system, our modeling and simulation capabilities, and our ability to stay ahead of the evolving threat.”

According to a press release:

“Soldiers from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade conducted launcher, fire control and radar operations using the same procedures they would use in an actual combat scenario.  Soldiers operating the equipment were not aware of the actual target launch time.

This was the 15th successful intercept in 15 tests for the THAAD weapon system.

The THAAD element provides a globally-transportable, rapidly-deployable capability to intercept ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final, or terminal, phase of flight. THAAD is strictly a defensive weapon system.  The system uses hit-to-kill technology where kinetic energy destroys the incoming target.

The mission of the Missile Defense Agency is to develop and deploy a layered ballistic missile defense system to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies and friends from ballistic missile attacks of all ranges in all phases of flight.”

The THAAD system located at Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, Alaska, detected, tracked and intercepted the target.

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awesome footage


The more awesome bit is a tactical air transport aircraft launching a ballistic missile – if this is possible, why not a cruise missile, anti-ship or other missiles to increase the flexibility, adaptability and operational capability of combat airframe poor air forces?


Search youtube for the video of a C-5 dropping (and launching) a minuteman ICBM. It was studied as an alert launch aircraft at one time.

Sceptical Richard

I remember a few years ago Airbus receiving a MBDA proposal Airbus to test fire a Storm Shadow from A400M. We got very excited about this. A rack would fit into the back like a palletised load and missiles would be extracted using a small parachute. Finally it came to nothing, to our great disappointment, MBDA claiming the RAF had lost interest in the concept. Some of us suspected the Tonka jet mafia saying “over our dead bodies are truckies going to get the role of firing cruise missiles in thr RAF”.