During the test, a Boeing-developed interceptor, carrying the Raytheon-built EKV, was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, following the launch of an ICBM from Kwajalein Atoll, stated an Aerojet press release, which added that the Aerojet Rocketdyne Alternate Divert Thruster (ADT) and DACS successfully maneuvered the EKV to destroy the incoming target.
This first live-fire test is a major milestone for the decades-long, $330 billion ICBM program.
This is akin to one bullet hitting another in terms of complexity and the distances traveled, noted some experts, and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) called the feat an “incredible accomplishment.”
“This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,”said director of MDA Vice Admiral Jim Syring in a statement.
Prior to Tuesday’s launch, the last test had taken place in 2014. Success was not guaranteed Tuesday — in fact the GMD system only hit its target nine out of 17 tests since 1999, reports Reuters.
The U.S. test comes as North Korea becomes increasingly hostile, increasing its missile tests and developing its own ICBM that can reach the U.S.mainland, around 5,500 miles from the hermit state.
“We are replicating our ability to defend the United States of America from North Korea, today,” said Riki Ellison, founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, prior to the launch.
In this year’s budget proposal, the Pentagon requested $7.9 billion for the Missile Defense Agency and around $1.5 billion for the GMD program specifically. Critics of the program say that the tests do not adequately replicate battlefield conditions, because of the controlled environment and the system having real information no enemy would telegraph.
Despite that critique, “this is an important day for homeland missile defense, and a bad day for Kim Jung-un,” said Tom Karako, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Hit-to-kill has once again been validated, this time against an ICBM,” said Karako. “The Missile Defense Agency has been on a long road to improve the reliability and capability of the GBI fleet. For two decades, the United States has expressed an unwillingness to accept vulnerability against certain types of missile threats, like those from North Korea. Today’s test promises good things for the defense of the nation.”