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U.S. hits target over Pacific in missile defense test

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    This Jan. 26 photo shows a flight test of the three-stage Ground-Based Interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base
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VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. >> The U.S. military intercepted a target over the Pacific Ocean on Sunday in a test of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System.

A long-range interceptor blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central California coast, minutes after an intermediate-range ballistic missile was launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, the Missile Defense Agency said in a statement.

Sailors aboard the Pearl Harbor-based USS Hopper destroyer detected and tracked the missile, and the interceptor struck the target warhead. The sea-based X-Band radar also tracked the target. Officials said it appears all components of the test performed as designed.

“This is a very important step in our continuing efforts to improve and increase the reliability of our homeland ballistic missile defense system,” said Navy Vice Adm. James D. Syring, Missile Defense Agency director.

Program officials will spend the next several months assessing the data obtained during the test.

It was the 65th successful intercept since 2001 for the Ballistic Missile Defense System.

A crew of U.S. Army soldiers from the 100th Missile Defense Brigade based in Colorado’s Schriever Air Force Base remotely launched the interceptor.

Kwajalein is a small atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands where the U.S. maintains a ballistic missile defense site. It’s halfway between Hawaii and Australia.

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