The undated image, captured from the website of the US House Armed Services Committee, shows Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director of the US Missile Defense Agency. (Screenshot captured from the US House Armed Services Committee website)
WASHINGTON -- The United States has successfully intercepted and destroyed a mock intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in its latest test of a sea-based missile defense system, the Defense Department said Tuesday.
The field test involved a threat-representative ICBM, launched from a US missile test site in the Marshall Islands early Tuesday morning (Washington time).
A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile launched from a US destroyer out in the sea intercepted and destroyed the target, the Pentagon said in a press release.
"This was an incredible accomplishment and critical milestone for the Aegis BMD SM-3 Block IIA program," Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director of the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA), was quoted as saying.
"The Department is investigating the possibility of augmenting the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system by fielding additional sensors and weapon systems to hedge against unexpected developments in the missile threat," he added.
The Pentagon did not name any country that a missile threat may originate from, but many believe the enhanced missile defense system is largely designed to protect the US homeland against North Korean missiles.
"The success of Tuesday's test is likely to draw particular interest from North Korea, whose development of intercontinental-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons is the main reason the Pentagon has sought to accelerate its building of missile defense systems over the past decade," the Associated Press wrote in its reporting of Tuesday's test.
Pyongyang continues to maintain a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing since late 2017.
Many, however, believe the communist state may stage a military provocation, possibly involving an ICBM launch, to test the new US administration of Joe Biden, set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
North Korea unveiled its largest-yet ICBM that likely has a longer range than its other missiles at an Oct. 9 military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers' Party.
"We have demonstrated that an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel equipped with the SM-3 Block IIA missile can defeat an ICBM-class target, which is a step in the process of determining its feasibility as part of an architecture for layered defense of the homeland," the MDA director, Hill, said.
The Defense Department said Tuesday's test marked the sixth flight test of an Aegis ballistic missile defense-equipped vessel using the SM-3 Block IIA guided missile, adding the test was originally scheduled to be held in March but was delayed due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Yonhap)