Published: Thu, June 01, 2017
Life&Culture | By Rose Hansen

United States stages successful test of ICBM defence system

United States stages successful test of ICBM defence system

The Missile Defense Agency said it was the first live-fire test against a simulated ICBM for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD), managed by Boeing Co (BA.N), and hailed it as an "incredible accomplishment".

"Defense and intelligence officials warn that North Korea is making progress toward threatening the USA with a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile - although they won't say when". Since the system was declared ready for potential combat use in 2004, only four of nine intercept attempts have been successful.

The most recent intercept test, in June 2014, was successful, but the longer track record is spotty.

"In several ways, this test was a $244 million baby step, a baby step that took three years", Coyle said.

That's why missile defense advocates argue the US must continue working on a system that can defend American allies in Asia and North America against potential launches; program critics argue it's a boondoggle whose failures have already proven it can't be trusted in the event of a crisis. Its accelerating missile development has complicated Pentagon calculations, most recently by incorporating solid-fuel technology into its rockets.

North Korea's activities have also kept China, Japan and South Korea on its toes.

A ground-based interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California "successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile target" fired from the Reagan Test Site in the Marshall Islands, the military said in a statement. The target was an intercontinental-range missile fired from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific, and the US used radars in the Pacific and overhead to track it. Syring said there was no homing beacon of any type on the missile.

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Syring said the next test will be in the fall of 2018 and involve a mock ICBM as the target. It was not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM, and details of its exact capabilities weren't made public.

The interception is a move that the Pentagon says is akin to hitting a bullet with another bullet - though at far higher speeds.

The missile defence system will comprise 44 interceptors by the end of the year, so it could thwart an attack from a rogue state or a volley of rockets.

The success of Tuesday's test is a watershed moment for the USA military's effort to establish an effective - though limited - ground-based defence against ICBMs.

The Pentagon has other elements of missile defense that have shown to be more reliable, although they are created to work against medium-range or shorter-range ballistic missiles.

The North continues a program of testing missiles and developing nuclear weapons.

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