The U.S. military on Tuesday cheered a successful, first-ever missile defense test involving a simulated attack by an intercontinental ballistic missile, in a major milestone for a program meant to defend against a mounting North Korean threat.
Despite the success, the $244 million test didn't confirm that under wartime conditions the US could intercept an intercontinental-range missile fired by North Korea. GMD's sensors followed the target before the interceptor annihilated it "in a direct collision", over the Pacific Ocean, according to the agency.
A ground-based interceptor launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California collided with and destroyed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)-class projectile that had been launched from at atoll in the Marshall Islands, more than 4,500 miles away, the MDA reported.
The test, originally scheduled for previous year, was pushed back as the Missile Defense Agency made engineering changes to the interceptor, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office released Tuesday.
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.
Prior to Tuesday's launch, the GMD system had successfully hit its target in only nine of 17 tests since 1999. "The Missile Defense Agency has been on a long road to improve the reliability and capability of the GBI fleet".
Syring, however, said that the test was based on intelligence projections of where the missile threat to the United States would be in 2020. A test failure would have raised new questions about the defensive system, but wasn't likely to compel the Pentagon to abandon expansion plans. Vice Admiral Jim Syring, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, said the test proves the US has the capability to defend itself from any missile threats posed by potential adversaries.
The mission of the MDA is to develop and deploy a layered ballistic missile defense system to defend the USA, its deployed forces, and allies from limited ballistic missile attacks of all ranges in all phases of flight. The GMD is created to stop missiles - such as North Korean missiles - during the midcourse of their flight through space. "The United States must know our declaration that we can turn the devils' den into ashes with nuclear weapons is not an empty threat", the paper said, according to a Channel News Asia report.