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Published: Wed, May 31, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

US successfully intercepts ICBM in historic test

US successfully intercepts ICBM in historic test

The American interceptor has an uneven track record, having succeeded nine times out of 17 attempts against missiles in tests since 1999, although the most recent test - in June 2014 - was a success.

The test was once scheduled for past year, but pushed back as the Missile Defense Agency made engineering changes to the interceptor, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office released Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency for the first time tested the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system's ability to intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The system, which has been operational since 2004 and has cost about $40 billion, is created to shoot down an incoming ICBM with interceptors launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., or Fort Greely, Alaska.

"The intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target is an incredible accomplishment ... and a critical milestone for this program", said MDA Director Vice Adm. Jim Syring.

The towering rocket was launched from an underground silo about 60 miles northwest of Santa Barbara in the latest test of the nation's troubled homeland missile-defense system. "I am incredibly proud of the warfighters who executed this test and who this system everyday".

The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said the interceptor, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, "destroyed the target in a direct collision" over the Pacific Ocean.

The GMD system is meant to protect America from a limited-volume nuclear-missile strike by a nonsuperpower, such as North Korea. But technological progress was slow and opponents warned that an effective defense against the Soviets' massive intercontinental missile arsenal might invite a first-strike before a system was perfected.

The missile launched on Monday was equipped with an advanced automated pre-launch sequence compared with previous versions of the "Hwasong" rockets, North Korea's name for its Scud-class missiles, KCNA said.

"The failure in flight-intercept tests is all the more surprising, because these tests are highly scripted to achieve success".

"In several ways, this test was a $244 million-dollar baby step, a baby step that took three years", Coyle said.

This undated photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on May 30, 2017 shows a test-fire of a ballistic missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea.more +.

According to reports, the USA has two Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) systems.

The defense rocket destroyed the incoming ICBM using an "exo-atmospheric kill vehicle", the Pentagon announced. But Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the system also protects against potential threats from Iran. The "kill vehicle" carries no explosives, either in testing or in actual combat.

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