The United States has announced plans to conduct its first ever attempt to shoot down an intercontinental range ballistic missile, as part of an effort to increase readiness for a potential attack from North Korea.
As SOFREP has covered before, the missile defense platforms utilized by the mainland United States don’t have a particularly good track record. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD, tasked with protecting the continental United States from an incoming nuclear missile strike utilizes ground-launched missiles designed to intercept an incoming ICBM in low earth orbit with its five-foot-long “kill vehicle.” However, the missiles have failed to successfully intercept within allotted tolerances on multiple test runs, forcing the U.S. to adopt a policy of firing as many as four or five intercept missiles at any one ICBM, dramatically reducing the overall number of missiles the U.S. can actively defend from at any given time.
Many of these failures have been attributed to an issue with internal circuit boards failing after debris within the missile comes into contact with them. These problems have reportedly been resolved in the newer platforms deployed around the U.S., but a whopping two-thirds of the current U.S. inventory of GMD missiles still contain this flaw many see as the cause of the platform’s inability to accurately intercept an incoming missile.
The test, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, is the first ever attempt to actually intercept an ICBM, rather than to simply place the interceptor within the vicinity of one.