High stakes as Pentagon tests ICBM defence system for first time

31 May, 2017, 05:30 | Author: Darnell Patrick

Seoul's new liberal administration has said Pyongyang's repeated test launches were dashing hopes for peace. The Sea-Based X-band radar, positioned in the Pacific Ocean, also acquired and tracked the target, MDA said, and the GMD system received the target tracking data and developed a fire control solution to intercept the target.

The Security Council first imposed sanctions on Pyongyang in 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs and has ratcheted up the measures in response to five nuclear tests and two long-range missile launches.

The most recent test of the missile defense system in June 2014 was successful and the Pentagon continues to upgrade its equipment. People are only going to complain about a defense system that doesn't work if it fails, and these look just as shiny sitting in a warehouse as anything else, which is all they'll likely ever have to do. It hasn't been attempted since then.

Since its inception, the system "has destroyed its target fewer than half the 17 times it has been tested, and its record is not improving over time", she said at the time.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davies said Tuesday's United States test was not timed specifically to the current tensions in North Korea but said that "in a broad sense, North Korea is one of the reasons why we have this capability".

While Tuesday's test wasn't designed with the expectation of an imminent North Korean missile threat, the military wants progress toward the stated goal of being able to shoot down a small number of ICBMs targeting the United States.

The GMD interceptors carry no warheads themselves but rely on the kinetic energy of their impact to destroy the incoming missile.

Stopping ICBMs is very hard: they are extremely fast (flying at around Mach 19), not very large, and often launch alongside decoys. Pentagon officials like to say that it's like hitting a bullet with a bullet.

"This is the hardest thing the Pentagon has ever tried to do, as our almost 70 years of trying shows", according to Coyle.


But the need for such a system seems more pressing now than it has been in a long time. The advanced Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system or THAAD has also been installed in South Korea to intercept any attacks launched over the Korean Demilitiarized Zone.

Besides its regular ballistic missile test-launches, the North carried out two of its five nuclear tests past year - in January and September.

The US now possesses only a single long-range, ground-based interceptor.

Shortly after this test occurred, the USA delivered the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to South Korea, a process which the US started working on with its ally after the flurry of North Korean missile tests in 2016.

But the Pentagon does have a solution, a classically American one: they want to throw money at the problem until it goes away.

Sullivan has been a vocal proponent of national missile defense. This is a 67 percent increase from previous year.

"The assessment is there was at least one missile but we are analyzing the number of missiles", he said.

The test, involving a simulated attack by an intercontinental ballistic missile, was announced by the United States military, who not long after said it had been successful.

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