The Pentagon successfully tested for the first time a ground-based intercept system just days after North Korea shoot off its ninth ballistic missile since the start of the year. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency confirmed Tuesday that the interceptor launched from a California military base around 3:30 p.m. ET successfully destroyed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) over the Pacific Ocean.
The intercepted ballistic missile was launched from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Marshall Islands. Military officials said that the test has been in the making for years.
System Can Deter Nuclear Threats
Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Adm. Jim Syring described the feat as an “incredible accomplishment” for the U.S. military and a milestone for the program. Syring underlined that the system is critically important to the U.S. national security and a very capable “deterrent” against threats such as those coming from North Korea.
I am incredibly proud of the warfighters who executed this test and who operate this system every day,
the Vice Admiral said.
The interceptor system was originally designed to counter the North Korean threat, but the fact the system was successful in a year when the regime intensified its missile tests was coincidental.
It is the 18th time the ground-based interceptor was tested. The latest successful test was in June 2014. The U.S. military has been testing the system since 1999, but it is the first time an ICBM-grade target is being tested with the system.
The U.S. has 32 interceptors in Alaska and four in Vandenberg, Calif. The Missile Defense Agency promised earlier this year to launch eight more interceptors in Alaska by the end of the year in the wake of the North Korean threat and a potential Iranian threat.
U.S. forces test the systems twice a year to verify the reliability of the overall missile defense system. The Air Force Global Strike Command confirmed the system needs to be constantly tested to ensure that it remains an effective nuclear deterrent.
North Korea Working Around the Clock to Reach U.S. Mainland
North Koreans have been working for more than a decade on developing an ICBM that could strike the United States mainland. Of the 9 missile launches the rogue state has conducted this year, none included ICBMs.
The system the U.S. tested Tuesday is based on a different technology than the one currently in use for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in South Korea. That system can only intercept missiles that are at a lower altitude.
North Korea latest test successfully landed a short-range missile in the Sea of Japan on May 28. Earlier this month, South Korea’s reclusive neighbor tested a medium-range ballistic missile which was also a success.
The Japanese confirmed that the test was a success as the missile hit a record altitude of 1,245 miles. Experts believe that the missile could have hit the American bases in Guam, had the North Koreans used a different trajectory.
Image Source: U.S. Air Force