The Pentagon’s missile defense test Tuesday is scheduled for the years, but none that are planned for how critical the timing would be.
Just two days after the last North Korean provocation, and amid heightened concerns of the rogue regime is inching closer to a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, the Pentagon for the first time tried to destroy it, a goal in which the speed and range of a possible North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile.
“The testing of the system against an ICBM-type target and represent the longest intercept test of a target-to-date in the program,” said Vice-Adm. James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency.
On Tuesday test — the results of which are not known until Wednesday — an unarmed rocket lifted off from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, a would-be North Korean threat. An interceptor blasted off from an underground missile silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base north of Los Angeles, on a mission to the dummy target over the Pacific Ocean.
In the latest phase, hundreds of kilometers above the earth, a “kill vehicle” is set to close in on the target, and navigating through space with thrusters powered by the real-time ground updates. In the end, it tries to destroy the target, by pure speed, both vehicles on thousands of kilometers per hour.
It is the proverbial “bullet hitting a bullet.”
“I have full confidence in the system, and the military use of the system,” Syring told Fox News in a rare interview in his office in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
About half of the previous tests of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system has failed, attracting the criticism of the Government Accountability Office and the Pentagon’s own weapons testing office, which says that the system has a “limited ability” to defend the U.S. against an ICBM attack.
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“This is the most difficult thing the Pentagon has ever tried to do,” said Philip Coyle, an expert at the Center for arms control and Non-Proliferation and a former official of the Pentagon’s weapons testing office. Coyle, one of the most vocal opponents of the interceptor program, says that it needs more development and testing.
“I think they’re trying to put their best foot forward for the program,” he said. “But they still have a long way to go.”
Faced with the prospect of a hostile state, obtaining long-range weapons, the Pentagon can be rapidly deployed to the interceptor system in 2004, long before development and testing were complete.
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“Fielding a capability is more important than waiting years on the field, a capability later,” Syring said. “It was…better for the agency, it is time to the power as a deterrent and an event against a possible North Korean ICBM, with the direction to improve in the course of time and the completion of the architecture, that we have done.”
Thirty-six battlecruisers, standing on guard at Vandenberg and Fort Greely, AK. By the end of 2017, the Pentagon plans to have forty-four.
Then Gallo is a Fox News Channel Field Producer based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @DanGallo
Jonathan Hunt currently serves as a New York-based chief correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). Hunt joined the network in 2002 as an international correspondent based in Los Angeles.