The $67 billion missile defense system designed to shoot down North Korean warheads — and protect Hawaii and the mainland in the process — successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile-class target over the Pacific in a first-of-its-kind salvo test, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said.
Two ground-based interceptors arced into the sky this morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California after the “threat-representative” ICBM target was launched from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, over 4,000 miles away.
The “lead” defensive missile destroyed the mock enemy reentry vehicle, as it was designed to do, the agency said.
The “trail” defensive missile “then looked at the resulting debris and remaining objects, and, not finding any other reentry vehicles, selected the next most lethal object it could identify, and struck that, precisely as it was designed to do,” according to the agency.
“This was the first (ground-based interceptor) salvo intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target, and it was a critical milestone,” MDA Director Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves said in a news release. “The system worked exactly as it was designed to do, and the results of this test provide evidence of the practicable use of the salvo doctrine within missile defense.”
Greaves said the ground-based midcourse defense system is “vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.”
The Pentagon’s chief weapons testing program said in its fiscal 2018 annual report that the ground-based system, with 44 interceptors in Alaska and California, has demonstrated only the capability to defend the U.S. homeland against a “small number” of intermediate-range or intercontinental ballistic missiles with simple countermeasures.
According to the Missile Defense Agency, the ground-based system has demonstrated 12 successful flight intercepts out of 20 attempts since 1999.