Washington: The United States Defence Department said Friday it shot down a missile in a simulated attack designed to test the effectiveness of a proposed missile defence shield against strikes by long-range ballistic missiles.
According to the Missile Defense Agency, the Pentagon used an interceptor missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to strike a missile that had been fired to simulate the speed and trajectory of a missile from North Korea. The interceptor struck the missile shortly after the target was launched from a site in Alaska.
Over the past several years, the US has tested different components of the missile defense shield, including Patriot air defence batteries, anti-ballistic missiles launched from Navy ships and lasers mounted on planes. The programme is spread across the three defence services and is composed of missiles, radar and satellites designed to intercept enemy missiles during different stages of flight.
The Friday test cost $120-150 million and incorporated many of the network's systems. The Navy, for example, tracked the target from one of its ships but did not fire. "It was the largest, most complex test we have ever done," said Lt Gen Patrick O'Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency.
General O'Reilly characterized the test as a success, but said the missile had not released planned countermeasures designed to try to confuse the interceptor.
So far the programme consumes about $10 billion a year, with the Boeing Company as the lead contractor. It, however, includes most of the nation's largest defence contractors as suppliers of systems.
The military argues that the network is needed to protect the United States and its allies from nations like Iran and North Korea, both of which have tested long-range missiles.