ICBM interception test in U.S. a success

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ICBM interception test in U.S. a success

The U.S. military announced Monday that an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) target was successfully engaged by two Ground Based Interceptors (GBI) in the first such experiment, which was described as a “critical milestone” in U.S. defense.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) made no mention of North Korea in its official press release, but the test came nearly a month after the collapse of the second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and as both countries are struggling to get denuclearization talks back on track.

One of the two GBIs involved in the test, called the GBI-Lead, destroyed the re-entry vehicle as it was designed to do, the MDA said. The second, known as the GBI-Trail, then looked at the resulting debris and remaining objects, and, not finding any other re-entry vehicles, selected the next “most lethal object” it could identify and struck that, precisely as it was designed to do.

The ICBM target was said to have been launched from the Marshall Islands, over 4,000 miles away from the two GBI interceptors, which were launched from California.

“This was the first GBI salvo intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target, and it was a critical milestone,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves, director of the MDA. “The system worked exactly as it was designed to do, and the results of this test provide evidence of the practicable use of the salvo doctrine within missile defense.”

Greaves said the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system is “vitally important” to the defense of the U.S. homeland and that the test demonstrates that the U.S. military has a “capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.”

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system refers to a U.S. antiballistic missile system for intercepting missiles in the midcourse of their ballistic trajectory flights - not in the terminal phase. Its interceptors are deployed at military bases in Alaska and California.

The MDA said it was its mission to develop and deploy a layered ballistic missile defense system to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies and friends from limited ballistic missile attacks of “all ranges in all phases of flight.”

Monday’s action was the first missile defense test conducted by the U.S. military since May 2017, when North Korea’s missile tests were at their peak. In the wake of Pyongyang’s threat to test-launch an ICBM with sufficient range to hit the U.S. mainland, the Pentagon at the time said it successfully carried out its first live-fire test to shoot down an ICBM-class target incoming from the Marshall Islands with a GBI launched from California.

In a 2020 defense spending request sent to Congress earlier this month, the MDA asked a total of $9.4 billion to continue development of its missile defense, including $1.8 billion for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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