US Plans First Test of New ICBM Intercept System

People watch a news program on May 21, 2017, showing a file image of a missile launch conducted by North Korea, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. With North Korea’s nuclear missile threat in mind, the Pentagon is planning a missile defense test next week that for the first time will target an intercontinental-range missile. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Against the backdrop of North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear threat, the Pentagon has planned a missile defense test that will attempt to shoot down an intercontinental-range missile for the first time, according to reports.

That test will take place on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported Friday, and aims to closely simulate a North Korean ICBM directed at the U.S., officials told the AP.

The latest iteration of the Ronald Reagan-era push for “Star Wars” missile defense capable of destroying intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles in space, has worked slightly more than half of the time.

Since 1999, the Ground-based  Midcourse Defense system has succeeded in nine of 17 attempts.

While Reagan had pushed for a multibillion-dollar missile defense system to defend against Soviet missile threats, U.S. efforts have turned toward North Korea amid threats from the country’s leader Kim Jong un, who has vowed to develop and deploy a nuclear-armed missile that can reach U.S. territory.

According to the DOD’s Missile Defense Agency, which developed and tests the system, the interceptor works by firing a rocket into space after a hostile missile launch is detected. It then releases a 5-foot-long “exo-atmospheric kill vehicle” into the path of the incoming missile, utilizing internal guidance systems.

The incoming missile is destroyed by the force of a direct impact.

During next week’s test, an interceptor will launch from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and fly toward a test missile fired from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. If the test works as planned, the kill vehicle will crash into the mock ICBM-like warhead and destroy it high above the Pacific Ocean.

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