The United States military has begun deploying the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea this week, a long-awaited move for the South Koreans that face an increasingly significant threat of North Korean missile attack.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is a defensive weapon platform designed specifically to shoot down short and medium range ballistic missiles.  According to Lockheed Martin, the primary contractor tasked with the project, each system is comprised of five primary components: the launcher, the interceptors, a radar system, a fire control unit, and support equipment.

The system works fairly simply: the advanced truck based radar first identifies a missile launch, and those manning the THAAD assess and identify the threat.  They then launch an “interceptor” at the missile.  The interceptor fires like a traditional missile, but is not equipped with an explosive warhead, instead it impacts the offensive missile and destroys it with kinetic energy.