Hit or miss, missile defense test is a key milestone

A 2016 assessment released by the Pentagon's weapons testing office in January said that US ground-based interceptors meant to knock out any incoming ICBM still had low reliability, giving the system a limited capability of shielding the United States. "The intercept took place over the Pacific Ocean, according to a Pentagon statement". Tuesday's test used a warhead equipped with new thrusters created to adjust its flight path as it approaches the mock ICBM and other components meant to remedy obsolescence of some parts and reliability shortcomings.

"We improve and learn from each test, regardless of the outcome".

"In school, 40% isn't a passing grade", added Coyle, who formerly headed the Pentagon's office of operational test and evaluation.

The American interceptor has an uneven track record, having succeeded nine times out of 17 attempts against missiles in test since 1999, although the most recent test - in June 2014 - was a success.

"The U.S. Missile Defense Agency. today successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile target during a test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the nation's ballistic missile defense system", the Defense Department said in a statement.

The short-range ballistic missile traveled an estimated 248 miles, splashing down within Japan's exclusive economic zone, an area of sea where commercial ships are known to operate.

The ground-based interceptor system is mainly created to counter a North Korean missile threat, but a USA official said Tuesday's long-scheduled test was coincidental to North Korea's increased missile testing this year.

"It's Moon's move now, but I expect he will be angrier about Japan claiming the [exclusive economic zone] than North Korea launching the missile", Lewis said. A ground-based interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and its exo-atmospheric kill vehicle intercepted and destroyed the target in a direct collision.

The test was a success. U.S. officials often call it a high-speed effort to hit a bullet with another bullet.

The test comes as the U.S. has ramped up other missile defence efforts, including the deployment of the THAAD missile defence system to South Korea which is created to counter short, medium and intermediate range missile threats. The report didn't say when the test happened.

Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told a congressional panel in early April that the February launch marked a significant advancement for North Korea because it was its first successful solid-fueled missile fired from a mobile launcher.

The Pentagon is still incorporating engineering upgrades to a missile interceptor that has yet to be fully tested in realistic conditions.

The Pentagon is thirsting for a success story amid growing fears about North Korea's escalating capability. "Kim is attempting to prove that he has the capability to strike the U.S. mainland with a nuclear weapon".

For example, North Korea's Rodong missile has a range of 1000 kilometers and is only accurate within three kilometers, while Scud missiles fired from a distance of 300 kilometers are still only accurate to within one kilometer.

It also sought to reassure the public that America's defenses were layered, meaning it had multiple opportunities to strike down a missile headed toward the United States.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North said that a North Korean missile fired over the Pacific could "literally" shut down Hawaii for decades.

It will be an important test of US missile defense capabilities. But technological progress was slow and opponents warned that an effective defense against the Soviets' massive intercontinental missile arsenal might invite a first-strike before a system was perfected.

  • Zachary Reyes