United States shoots down mock warhead over Pacific

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said that it successfully shot down an ICBM using its own upgraded long-range interceptor missile on Tuesday in what was widely seen as a test of the U.S.' ability to counter a North Korean missile launch.

The Navy's Aegis BMD system - in which a warship at sea launches against the ballistic missile target - has a better record, with 35 successful intercepts of 42 attempts, according to the Missile Defense Agency. A second missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The Pentagon said the test was long-planned but it comes amid increased tensions with North Korea.

The North has carried out two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches since the beginning of past year in its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States - something President Donald Trump has vowed "won't happen".

The U.S. military on Tuesday conducted a flight test to exercise the ground-based mid-course defence element of the nation's ballistic missile defence system.

A successful test was by no means guaranteed and the Pentagon sought to manage expectations earlier in the day, noting that the United States had multiple ways to try to shoot down a missile from North Korea.

"North Korea has expanded the size and the sophistication of its ballistic missile forces from close-range ballistic missiles to intercontinental ballistic missiles".

The test saw a rocket from the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system blast into space and then deploy its "exo-atmospheric kill vehicle", which smashed into the dummy ICBM, destroying it in a direct collision.

He says Tuesday's test result has proved to be "an incredible accomplishment" and a milestone for a program hampered by setbacks over the years.

"They continue to conduct test launches, as we saw even this weekend, while also using unsafe rhetoric that suggests that they would strike the United States homeland", he said.

"Program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test", said the MDA. A simulated attack intercontinental ballistic missile was sacked from a tiny island in the Pacific.

  • Larry Hoffman