US Prepares For Another Missile Defense Test As North Korea Ramps Up The Threat

Leah Garton/Missile Defense Agency/Handout via REUTERS

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The U.S. will conduct another missile defense test in the near future to better address the growing ballistic missile threat from North Korea.

The U.S. Coast Guard issued a warning to mariners earlier this week to steer clear of the waterways between Kodiak Island in Alaska and Hawaii this coming weekend, according to the Kodiak Daily Mirror. U.S. military personnel are stationed at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska to conduct a test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency conducted a successful intermediate-range ballistic missile intercept test using the THAAD system earlier this month. THAAD, a kinetic missile defense system designed to eliminate short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, has a perfect 14 out of 14 success rate for intercepts. In the most recent test, the missile shield intercepted an IRBM launched from an Air Force cargo plane near Hawaii.

North Korea tested a new IRBM — the Hwasong-12 — in May.

“This test further demonstrates the capabilities of the THAAD weapon system and its ability to intercept and destroy ballistic missile threats. THAAD continues to protect our citizens, deployed forces and allies from a real and growing threat,” Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said after the latest test.


The upcoming test will determine whether or not the system can intercept incoming missiles inside Earth’s atmosphere, Leah Garton, a U.S. Missile Defense Agency public affairs officer, recently explained to the Associated Press.

THAAD is part of a three-tiered missile defense system to protect Northeast Asia. The regional defense system involves Patriot, THAAD, and Aegis interceptor systems, and any of these systems could come into play in a wartime scenario. The U.S. began deploying THAAD in South Korea in March, just after North Korea fired a salvo of extended-range Scud missiles into the East Sea/Sea of Japan during a military drill simulating an attack on U.S. bases in Japan.

Protecting the U.S. is the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system. The MDA conducted a successful intercontinental ballistic missile intercept test in late May. An interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California eliminated a mock long-range missile fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.

North Korea successfully tested a new ICBM — the Hwasong-14 — earlier this month. Experts suspect the long-range weapon could potentially deliver a nuclear payload to targets in Alaska, Hawaii, and the West Coast.

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