The Pentagon on Tuesday will for the first time test its ability to shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile using its own upgraded long-range interceptor missile in what is being widely seen as a test of US ability to counter a North Korean missile launch.
The test, which will take place in the skies over the Pacific Ocean, comes just two days after Pyongyang fired a short-range ballistic missile that traveled an estimated 248 miles, splashing down within Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
In a Monday tweet, President Donald Trump joined the leaders of South Korea and Japan in condemning the test, saying that North Korea had “shown great disrespect” for China by “shooting off yet another ballistic missile.”
The Pentagon insists the long-planned test of its ground-based interceptor system is not solely about North Korea, and the test is aimed at being able to challenge any threatening intercontinental ballistic missile, including possibly from Iran in the future.
That test involves firing a new version of the military’s single long-range ground-based interceptor missile, which is currently based in Alaska and California. That program has also been in existence for more than a decade but only about half of the tests have been successful, according to the Defense Department. US officials often call it a high-speed effort to hit a bullet with another bullet.
In the most recent Pentagon report examining weapons testing across the Department of Defense, this long-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 to say the Defense Department continues to discover new failure modes during testing.
Tuesday’s test, an interceptor missile will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and attempt to intercept a simulated threat missile…