WASHINGTON – The U.S. said Tuesday that it successfully shot down a simulated intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.
The test, which had been planned for months, marked the first time that the system had been tested against a dummy IRBM (range of 1,800 and 3,100 miles). It marked the14th successful intercept in 14 attempts for the operational version of the THAAD weapon system.
“The successful demonstration of THAAD against an IRBM-range missile threat bolsters the country’s defensive capability against developing missile threats in North Korea and other countries,” the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said in a statement announcing the test.
In the test, according to the MDA, a U.S. Air Force C-17 air-launched a mock IRBM over the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii and a THAAD weapon system located at the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak, Alaska, detected, tracked and intercepted the target.
The ground-based system uses the force of impact to destroy an incoming missile. It is designed to shoot down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and is capable of striking a target both inside and outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
The U.S. deployed THAAD to South Korea earlier this year to defend against short-range missiles from North Korea. The move has been met with protest by China and Russia, which argue that the U.S. is using the threat from North Korea as a pretext to expand its military presence in the region and that the system jeopardizes the regional strategic balance. China is also concerned that the U.S. could use the system’s powerful radar to spy on its territory.
The U.S. deployed the system to Guam in 2013 amid concerns about the missile threat from North Korea.
The MDA told Congress in June that the agency plans to deploy 52 additional THAAD systems to the U.S. Army between October 2017 and September 2018, raising the total number of systems to 210 since May 2011.