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Pentagon: Missile intercept test 'a success'

The interceptor was launched from a U.S. base in the central Pacific Ocean
The interceptor was launched from a U.S. base in the central Pacific Ocean  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon says it has successfully completed a test viewed as a crucial step toward the development of its controversial missile defense shield.

The latest test involved a so-called 'kill vehicle" intercepting an intercontinental ballistic missile target high over the central Pacific Ocean Monday night U.S. time.

A modified Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile carrying a dummy warhead as a target was launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., at 9:59 p.m. EST.

Twenty minutes later and 4,800 miles away, an interceptor was launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Pentagon said.

The intercept took place approximately 10 minutes after the interceptor was launched, more than 140 miles above the earth.

It was the third successful intercept for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense Segment, formerly known as National Missile Defense.

How missile defense works 

"The test successfully demonstrated exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) flight performance and 'hit to kill' technology to intercept and destroy a long-range ballistic missile target," the Pentagon said.

In addition to the EKV locating, tracking, and intercepting the target resulting in its destruction, the test demonstrated the ability of system elements to work together as an integrated system, the Pentagon statement said.


The test involved space and ground-based sensors and radars, as well as functions to detect the launch of the target missile and cue an early warning radar to provide detailed target location data.

It integrated a prototype X-Band radar (based at Kwajalein) to provide target data to the EKV, which received updates from an In-Flight Interceptor Communications Systems (IFICS) at Kwajalein.

The EKV separated from its rocket booster more than 1,400 miles from the target warhead.

After separation, it used on-board infrared and visual sensors and X-Band radar data to locate and track the target. Sensors aboard the EKV selected the target instead of a large balloon, which served as a decoy.

The complexity and pinpoint accuracy required for the system to work has been likened to trying to hit one speeding bullet with another.

Monday's test is the third successful intercept in five attempts.

The goal of the technology is to deter the threat of ballistic missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction.

Russia and China have led opposition to U.S. plans for the proposed missile defense system saying it would violate existing treaties and could trigger a new arms race.

Over the next several weeks, government and industry program officials will analyze the data to evaluate how well the system worked.


• National Missile Defense
• Missile Defense Data Center
• The Joint National Integration Center
• Defense Technical Information Center
• Naval Research Laboratory
• Clementine
• Office of Strategic Phenomena

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