High stakes as Pentagon tests ICBM defence system for first time

To date, North Korea has carried out three underground nuclear tests.

Despite the success, the $244 million test didn't confirm that under wartime conditions the US could intercept an intercontinental-range missile fired by North Korea.

Missile defense is a work in progress, trying to stay ahead of the emerging threat of a North Korean ICBM.

It comes just two days after Pyongyang fired a short-range ballistic missile that traveled an estimated 248 miles, splashing down within Japan's exclusive economic zone.

The Pentagon is still incorporating engineering upgrades to its missile interceptor.

The state has stressed that it will continue to develop a pre-emptive strike capability. Since the system was declared ready for potential combat use in 2004, only four of nine intercept attempts have been successful.

A rocket soars into space, then releases what officials call a "kill vehicle" equipped with a system that guides it into the path of a missile.

The interceptor was launched from a silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and hit the test missile fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific, the Defense Missile Agency said. "That's the reason we conduct them", said Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis to Reuters. "Program officials will evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test".

In the $244 million exercise, which began shortly after noon, an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, was intercepted and destroyed over the Pacific Ocean as part of a test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the nation's ballistic missile defense system. "It's much easier to launch a missile than it is to shoot one down".

"The message here is we are serious about defending our homeland", Tomarchio said of the missile launch. The U.S.is testing an interceptor that could destroy an ICBM. Vandenberg Air Force Base is on the coast located north of Santa Barbara near the town of Lompoc.

Syring, the missile defense agency director, has said he is "very confident" in the systems that would be used "to intercept a North Korean ICBM were they to shoot it toward our territory".

In its 2018 budget presented to Congress last week, the Pentagon proposed spending $7.9 billion on missile defense, including $1.5 billion for the ground-based mid-course defense program.

North Korea was likely showing its determination to push ahead in the face of worldwide pressure to rein in its missile program and "to pressure the (South Korean) government to change its policy on the North", South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said. Operation Crossbow in the 1940s, the Nike Zeus in the 1960s, and the "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative in the 1980s all tried to create a long-range ballistic missile defense system, and none met with better than limited success.

  • Salvatore Jensen