Tuesday, the Pentagon will use its own upgraded long-range interceptor missile to test whether it can shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile. The test is being widely seen as an evaluation whether the US has the ability to counter a North Korean missile launch.
Just two days after a short-range ballistic missile that traveled an estimated 248 miles, splashing down within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, fired by Pyongyang, the US has decided to conduct the test in the skies over the Pacific Ocean.
President Donald Trump joined the leaders of Japan and South Korea in a Monday tweet, in condemning the test, saying that North Korea has “shown great disrespect” for China by “shooting off yet another ballistic missile.”
The long-planned test of its ground-based interceptor system is not just about North Korea, the Pentagon says. The test is also aimed at being able to challenge threats in the future, like any threatening intercontinental ballistic missiles from Iran.
The upcoming test involves firing an upgraded version of the Pentagon’s single long-range ground-based interceptor missile, which is currently based in California and Alaska. That program has also been live for over a decade,k but only about half of the tests have been successful, according to the Department of Defense. The tests are often called by US officials as “a high-speed effort to hit a bullet with another bullet.”
The Pentagon’s most recent report which examines weapon testing across the Defense Department, this longe-range system was criticized, saying it “demonstrates a limited capability to defend the US homeland from small numbers of simple intermediate-range or intercontinental ballistic missile threats launched from North Korea or Iran.”
The report went on saying that the Department of Defense continues to discover new failure modes during testing.
An interceptor missile will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in Tuesday’s test. The interceptor missile will attempt to intercept a simulated threat missile over the Pacific Ocean launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Tuesday will be the first test of the interceptor using an upgraded “kill” vehicle, which is the part of the missile that would hit an incoming warhead.
Last week, Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence told Congress, “North Korea is an increasingly grave national security threat to the United States because of its growing missile and nuclear capabilities combined with the aggressive approach of its leader Kim Jong Un. Kim is attempting to prove that he has the capability to strike the US mainland with a nuclear weapon.”