US conducts missile intercept test amid heightened tensions with North Korea

A U.S. Navy ship successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile launched from a facility in Hawaii during a test, according to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

Sailors on board the USS John Paul Jones, a guided missile destroyer based in Hawaii, conducted the test off the coast of Hawaii on Monday. The ship’s onboard radar “detected and tracked” the target missile before Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) guided missiles were launched from the ship to intercept the target, MDA said.

The test came just two days after North Korea fired a KN-17 missile over Japan, triggering sirens and text alerts from the Japanese government to warn citizens of an imminent attack. The missile landed in the Pacific Ocean off the east coast of the island of Hokkaido. It was the third time a North Korean missile overflew one of Japan’s four main islands — with previous tests in 1998 and 2009.

Guided missile destroyers like the John Paul Jones could be used to intercept a North Korean missile from their locations in the Sea of Japan and the Pacific. Monday’s intercept test, like previous ones the U.S. has conducted, was long planned, the MDA said.

Monday’s test missile was launched from Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.

This is the second time a SM-6 missile has successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile target, according to MDA.

“We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis [ballistic missile defense] ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase,” said MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves. “We will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves.”

The U.S. frequently tests elements of its missile defense systems.

In July, the Air Force launched a medium-range ballistic missile over the Pacific that was intercepted by the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system located at a complex in Kodiak, Alaska. That was the 15th successful intercept in 15 tests for the THAAD weapon system, according to MDA.

In May, the U.S. successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) during the first test of its ground-based intercept system, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The ICBM-target was launched from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, 4,200 miles…

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