A rocket interceptor fired from Kauai last night successfully knocked down a simulated ballistic missile launched from an at-sea mobile launch platform, the Missile Defense Agency said.
The test represented the seventh successful intercept in seven attempts for the ground-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which is part of the U.S. ballistic missile shield.
The test at the Pacific Missile Range Facility involved the intercept of a short-range target in the endoatmosphere, or inside the earth’s atmosphere. The target, representing a short-range ballistic missile threat, was launched at 9:32 p.m. from the deck of the decommissioned ship the Tripoli.
Upon acquiring and tracking the target, the THAAD system developed a fire control solution and launched an interceptor missile, which acquired and successfully intercepted the target missile, the Missile Defense Agency said.
The intercept occurred at the lowest altitude to date for the THAAD interceptor missile, which has the capability to engage targets both inside and outside the earth’s atmosphere.
Soldiers of the 6th Air Defense Artillery Brigade of Fort Bliss, Texas, conducted launcher, fire control and radar operations. Soldiers operating the equipment were not aware of actual target launch time, officials said.
The mobile THAAD system is intended to destroy ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere in the final, or terminal, phase of flight and uses "hit-to-kill" technology utilizing kinetic energy to destroy an incoming warhead.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted THAAD capabilities as a defense in June 2009 when North Korea threatened to test-fire ballistic missiles toward Hawaii. North Korea launched seven "Scud-type" missiles on July 4 that flew about 250 miles.