WASHINGTON – A U.S. interceptor scored a direct hit, turned out to result in the “complete destruction” of a mock warhead over the Pacific Ocean in what the Pentagon said Wednesday it was a realistic test which is a reflection of the missile threat from North Korea and Iran.
Vice Adm. Jim Syring, director of the Department of Defense the Missile Defense Agency, told Pentagon reporters that the test included decoys and replicated a very specific scenario in the Pacific ocean.
“I was convinced that for the test we had the ability to defeat any threat that they would throw at us, and I am even more convinced today, after seeing the intersection test of yesterday, that we are still on course,” Syring said.
Tuesday test is a crucial milestone for a program that has been hampered by setbacks over the past few years, ” he said.
Despite the success, the $244 million test does not confirm that under wartime conditions the US could intercept an intercontinental-range missile fired by North Korea. The North is understood to be closer to the possibility of a warhead on an ICBM and could develop decoys refined enough to entice a interceptor in the miss of the real warhead.
Syring, however, said that the test is based on intelligence projections of where the missile threat to the United States would be in 2020. He said that the results show that the AMERICAN program is progressing “ahead of where we believe the threat will go in terms of complexity, counter-measures and the attention for the capacity on the road.”
Philip E. Coyle, a former head of the Pentagon’s test and evaluation office, and a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said the outcome was a great success for a test, that was three years in preparation. Still, he noticed it was only the second success in the last five intercept attempts since 2010.
“In different ways, In this test was a $244 million dollar baby step, a baby step that took three years,” Coyle said.
The most recent intercept test, in June 2014, was successful, but the longer track record is spotty. Since the system is declared ready for possible combat use in 2004, only four of the nine interception attempts have been successful.
North Korea says its nuclear and missile programmes are a defense against the alleged US military threats. The accelerating rocket has complicated the calculations of the Pentagon, most recently by the integration of solid-fuel technology in its missiles. The step would mean that even less launch warning time for the United States. Liquid fuel is less stable and missiles with the to be fed in the field, a process that takes longer and can be detected by satellites.
The stress of the continuous efforts, North Korea on Monday fired one short-range ballistic missiles landed in Japan’s maritime economic zone.
In the united states test, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency launched an interceptor missile from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The goal was an intercontinental range of the missile fired from a test range at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific ocean and the united states used radars in the Pacific ocean and the overhead to follow. Syring said that there was no homing beacon of any type of on the rocket.
According to the plan, a 5-foot-long “kill vehicle” released from the top of the interceptor zero in on the ICBM as a victim mock warhead outside the Earth’s atmosphere and destroyed by the sheer force of the impact, the Pentagon said. The “kill vehicle” carries no explosives, in testing or in actual combat.
Because much of the program is classified, Syring said that he could not give much information about the bespoke purpose. He said that it “flew at a higher altitude and with a greater range and higher speed than any other goal we have flown to date.”
Syring in comparison with the defensive tactic to “hitting a bullet with a bullet.” With congressional support, the Pentagon is increasing at the end of this year, the number of deployed interceptors based in California and Alaska to 44 from the current total of 36.
Syring said the next test will be in the autumn of 2018, and the involvement of a mock ICBM as a target. But it will make use of two interceptors to take out the rocket, he said, because in a real life situation, the U.S. would launch more than one missile to destroy such a threat.