A rocket interceptor fired from Kauai on Monday 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 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 Tripoli.
The successful interception "further proves THAAD’s mission flexibility and capability," Tom McGrath, vice president and program manager for THAAD at Lockheed Martin, said in a release.
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 interception 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 launch, fire control and radar operations.
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.
Since 2005, the program has completed 11 flight tests, with seven-for-seven intercepts, officials said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted THAAD capabilities as a possible defense for Hawaii in June 2009 when North Korea threatened to test-fire ballistic missiles in the direction of the state. North Korea launched seven "Scud-type" missiles on July 4 that flew about 250 miles.