Even as tension between the U.S. and North Korea subsides for the moment, the threat of a ballistic missile attack is always a possibility that the US must plan for. A recent video that was released by the Pentagon shows a “kill vehicle” intercepting and destroying an intercontinental ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean Wednesday.
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The “kill vehicle” was about five-foot-long and was dropped from an aircraft to collide with the ICBM. The kill vehicle, better known as the exo-atmospheric kill vehicle (EKV), then uses its onboard sensors to find and destroy the missile.
Interestingly enough, the kill vehicle doesn’t use explosives to destroy the target, but, instead, uses kinetic waves. Vice Adm. Jim Syring, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency informed the media that the “very realistic” mock test was a success. “All our systems performed exactly as designed,” he said.
There will be a much more in-depth analysis of this successful $244 million test, including determining where the ballistic missile was hit, according to Syring.
The string of islands and tiny atolls in the Pacific Ocean where the mock test took place is the same location where more than 65 Cold War tests were conducted. Both the kill vehicle and the missile were launched from Vandenburg Airbase, Calif. at 3:30 pm, according to The Washington Post.
“This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,” he said during a phone interview with the Pentagon.
The success of the program, which was begun in 2004, is now more important than ever before following North Korea’s tests of ballistic missiles and their ongoing threats to the US and its allies.
Syring told the press that the $40 billion program would allow the U.S. to handle any attack from foreign countries.
“I was confident before the test that we had the capability to defeat any threat that they would throw at us. And I’m even more confident today after seeing the intercept test yesterday that we continue to be on that course,” Syring stated shortly after the test concluded.
Philip E. Coyle, a senior science fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation who formerly headed the Pentagon’s Office of Operational Tests and Evaluation, agreed that a successful launch was encouraging, but he cautioned that the program still has work to do.
“Having this success was very important,” Coyle said. “It marks two successes in a row, which is significant, but only two hits out of the last five attempts; that is, only a 40 percent success rate since early 2010.”
The next test is scheduled to take place in August/September 2018, according to CNN, and will involve multiple interceptors attempting to take out a single test ICBM.