US shoots down mock warhead over Pacific

The test's success was an important step toward demonstrating that improved interceptors the agency is now installing in silos "are capable and can be relied upon to defend the US homeland from a ballistic missile attack", Cristina Chaplain, the missile defense director for the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, said in an email.

Syring's agency sounded a note of caution. "I am incredibly proud of the warfighters who executed this test and who operate this system every day", he said.

The test was the first of its kind in almost three years.

In previous tests against slower targets the US GMD system had successfully hit its target in only nine of 17 attempts.

North Korea said "the U.S. and its followers are seriously mistaken" if they think North Korea will back down.

MDA officials said previously that a successful test would clear the way for a salvo test involving two interceptors flying at the same time from Vandenberg.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis had said the test was not timed specifically in response to tensions with Pyongyang but "in a broad sense, North Korea is one of the reasons why we have this capability".

"The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on Earth, which is the capital of South Korea", Mattis told CBS news program "Face the Nation". The step would mean even less launch warning time for the United States. The older liquid fuel rockets require a long, visible process of refueling, tipping off surveillance systems.

Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview Sunday that it would not be acceptable for North Korea to acquire an intercontinental ballistic missile, saying the U.S. should not be reliant exclusively upon missile defense to ward off the threat.

In Tuesday's US test, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency launched an interceptor rocket from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Tuesday's successful test was confirmed around 1:40 p.m., and it comes amid President Donald Trump's order to review the ballistic missile defense system.

The ground-based mid-course defense (GMD) system used a 5-foot "kill vehicle" released from a larger ground-based interceptor missile to obliterate the mock ICBM, defense officials said.

The test, designated Flight Test Ground-Based Interceptor-15, will provide the data necessary to assess the performance of the GMD system and provide enhanced homeland defense capabilities.

There are two kill vehicles now in use among the 36 deployed interceptors in California and Alaska.

Progress by North Korea's ruler Kim Jong Un toward developing a nuclear missile that can hit the US mainland has focused new attention on the array of missile interceptors tipped with Raytheon Co. warheads based in California and Alaska.

Despite that investment, the program has only managed to produce "essentially an advanced prototype", wrote Laura Grego, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The test, which took place over the Pacific, came after a series of successful missile tests by the communist North that demonstrated steady progress in its pursuit of various types of missiles, including a nuclear-tipped ICBM capable of reaching the US.

The report went on to say the Defense Department continues to discover new failure modes during testing.

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

The Missile Defense Agency has said its extensive efforts to fix flaws with the interceptor's warhead have paid off. Other elements of that effort include the Patriot created to shoot down short-range ballistic missiles and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which the USA has installed in South Korea as defense against medium-range North Korean missiles.

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  • Leroy Wright