The U.S. military destroyed a mock intercontinental ballistic missile thousands of miles over the Pacific for the first time Tuesday, a step forward for a missile-defense program that has taken on new significance in light of North Korean threats.
The ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system used a five-foot “kill vehicle” released from a larger ground-based interceptor missile to obliterate the mock ICBM, defense officials said. The mock threat was launched from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Marshall Islands, and it was met by an interceptor launched from a silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
“The intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target is an incredible accomplishment for the GMD system and a critical milestone for this program,” Navy Vice Adm. Jim Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said in a statement. “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.”
The test, originally scheduled for last year, was pushed back as the Missile Defense Agency made engineering changes to the interceptor, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office released Tuesday.