After test, USA says missile defenses are outpacing ICBM threat

Cheryl Sanders
May 31, 2017

That's the word from the Pentagon — which says the realistic test mirrored the missile threat from North Korea and Iran.

The first ever test of an interceptor meant to shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) has been successful, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said. "And I'm even more confident today after seeing the intercept test yesterday that we continue to be on that course", Syring said a news briefing. "This 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".

North Korea has carried out a total of nine missile tests this year alone in violation of United Nations resolutions.

The results of Tuesday's test won't be known until Wednesday.

Failure could have deepened concern about a program that according to one estimate has so far cost more than $US40 billion ($A54 billion). Only nine were partially or fully successful.

"This is part of a continuous learning curve", said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, ahead of Tuesday's test.

Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview Sunday that it would not be acceptable for North Korea to acquire an intercontinental ballistic missile, saying the U.S. should not be reliant exclusively upon missile defense to ward off the threat. The country's engineers have recently started to incorporate solid-fuel technology into their rockets, which allows them to launch more quickly and give USA satellites less of a heads-up that a launch is coming. The older liquid fuel rockets require a long, visible process of refueling, tipping off surveillance systems.

In a launch visible in select parts of the Southland, U.S. Air Force officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base successfully launched the ground-based interceptor missile that blasted out of the sky the incoming rocket.

"First, a missile target took off from an island in the western Pacific".

The interceptor missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California shortly after 3:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. None of the kill vehicles had a successful test before being fielded. It was not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM, and details of its exact capabilities weren't made public.

The test comes just two days after Pyongyang fired a short-range ballistic missile that traveled an estimated 248 miles, splashing down within Japan's exclusive economic zone. Despite that investment, the program has only managed to produce "essentially an advanced prototype", wrote Laura Grego, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. She said, "I think we'll decide ... this week on what that looks like". But it will use two interceptors to take out the missile, he said, because in a real life situation, the US would launch more than one rocket to destroy any such threat.

The Pentagon has other elements of missile defense that have shown to be more reliable, although they are created to work against medium-range or shorter-range ballistic missiles.

The exercise will check the performance of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, which has had a checkered record in previous tests.

Other reports by iNewsToday