The U.S. tested its defenses against a simulated intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Tuesday.
The U.S. fired off an interceptor at an ICBM target, Reuters reports. The Missile Defense Agency reports that the test was successful, meaning the U.S. ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system was able to shoot down a mock warhead fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.
“This was the first live-fire test event against an ICBM-class target for GMD and the U.S. ballistic missile defense system,” MDA reported in a statement announcing the successful intercept.
The intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target is an incredible accomplishment for the GMD system and a critical milestone for this program,” MDA Director Vice Adm. Jim Syring said in a statement. “This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.”
The missile defense shield has a spotty record, as only nine of the 17 tests have been successful, reports USA Today.
Tuesday’s $244 million test comes at a time when North Korea is rapidly advancing its ballistic missile program. The North recently tested a new medium long-range missile, the Hwasong-12, which some suspect to be the technological predecessor, if not a stage, of a liquid-fueled ICBM. In the wake of that test, South Korea’s defense minister claimed that North Korea’s missile program is progressing faster than expected, adding a sense of urgency to the development of missile defense programs.
At the same time, other challengers, such as China, have also been advancing their missile programs.
Kinetic missile defense is a challenge, as it is the equivalent of trying to hit a bullet with another bullet. “People think missile defenses are a magic wand. They aren’t,” Jeffrey Lewis, a renowned arms expert, previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation. The successful test is a step in the right direction, but it does not mean U.S. systems are impenetrable.
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