WASHINGTON – The U.S. military Friday shot down a missile in a test simulating a long-range ballistic missile attack by a potential adversary such as North Korea or Iran, senior defense officials said.
The target missile was launched from Kodiak Island, Alaska, tracked simultaneously by several ground and ship-based radars, and intercepted by a “kill vehicle” 3,000 kilometers away over the Pacific 25 minutes later, according to the Missile Defense Agency.
“It was the largest, most complex test we have ever done,” Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, chief of the Missile Defense Agency, said at a Pentagon news conference after the test.
“The key to our protection … is to be able to have all of these different sensors simultaneously tracking” and recognizing the same object, which they did for the first time in Friday’s test, he said. “The kill vehicle was sent to a very accurate spot in space,” he said, adding that the result “does give us great confidence.”
However, he said the 40-year-old target missile failed to deploy its countermeasures – such as decoys or chaff – which were supposed to add realism to the test.
The missile defense program has come under criticism for its expense and because of questions about its ability to discern decoys.
Friday’s test was the 13th of its kind by a ground-based interceptor since 1999, part of a missile defense program that has cost approximately $100 billion, according to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. Eight such tests, including the one Friday, have succeeded in destroying the target missiles. The last one was in September 2007.