Washington (AFP) – The US military will try to intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile in a test of a defense system that comes amid broad tensions over North Korea’s weapons program, the Pentagon said Friday.
Scheduled for Tuesday, the test will involve launching a ground-based interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California at a mock-up of an ICBM fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the Missile Defense Agency said in a statement.
The exercise will check the performance of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, which has had a checkered record in previous tests.
Though it succeeded in the last test in 2014, it failed during the three prior attempts.
The technology behind the GMD is extremely complex, and the system uses globally deployed sensors to detect and track ballistic missile threats.
In a move that the Pentagon says is akin to hitting a bullet with another bullet, the missile launches into space then deploys an “Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle” that uses kinetic energy to destroy the incoming target.
North Korea this year has conducted a series of missile tests as it strives to build an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States.
Pyongyang carried out two atomic tests last year, and has accelerated its missile launch program, despite tough UN sanctions aimed at denying Kim the hard currency needed to fund his weapons ambitions.
President Donald Trump has called Kim a “madman with nuclear weapons.”