THAAD. Credit: U.S. Army

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s $778 million funding request for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) program next year supports procurement of six interceptor batteries, three fewer than previously planned, a senior U.S. Army officer told lawmakers.

Army Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, said military planners have identified a requirement for nine THAAD batteries, but the purchase was scaled back to save money. The purchase of THAAD interceptors is being reduced from 503 to 320, Formica said during an April 25 hearing of the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

The revised plan is expected to save about $1.3 billion from 2012 to 2016, according to Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, which procures THAAD for the Army. The decision will reduce the number of “simultaneous deployed locations” for the system, he said.

THAAD is designed to protect deployed U.S. and allied troops and population centers against short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Development of the system, capable of intercepting missiles both inside and outside the atmosphere, began in the 1990s; production started in 2007.

A THAAD battery consists of a launcher, interceptors, a radar and fire control system. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control of Dallas is prime contractor on the system, which also is being sold to U.S. allies.