Infrared footage shows a successful intercept of a mock warhead on Tuesday, May 30, 2017.
Missile Defense Agency
Vice Adm. Jim Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said the successful test represented a specific real-world scenario, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.
Pyongyang is understood to be moving closer to the capability of putting a nuclear warhead on such an ICBM and could develop decoys sophisticated enough to trick an interceptor into missing the real warhead. The target missile used in Tuesday’s test deployed decoys meant to throw the interceptor missile off its trail.
Syring said in a briefing that the main difference between the test and a North Korean missile launch was the location of the test, which was conducted much further south in the Pacific than the trajectory of a potential North Korean strike. As a result, radar systems in Japan and Alaska weren’t in use during the test.
The successful test was hailed as a triumph, with Syring saying the result was “an incredible accomplishment” that marked a critical milestone for a missile defense program hampered by setbacks over the years.
However, Syring’s agency also sounded a note of caution after the $244-million test.
“Initial indications are that the test met its primary objective, but program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test,” an earlier written statement said.
In Tuesday’s U.S. test, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency launched an interceptor rocket from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The target was an intercontinental-range missile fired from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific.
According to the plan, a 5-foot-long “kill vehicle” released from atop the interceptor zeroed in on the ICBM-like target’s mock warhead outside Earth’s atmosphere and obliterated it by sheer force of impact, the Pentagon said. The “kill vehicle” carries no explosives, either in testing or in actual combat.
The target was a custom-made missile meant to simulate an ICBM, meaning it flew faster than missiles used in previous intercept tests, according to Christopher Johnson, the Missile Defense Agency’s spokesman. It was not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM, and details of its exact capabilities weren’t made public.
Read more at CBSNews.com.