The US military said on Friday it had carried out a successful test of its missile defense system off Hawaii’s coast, as Washington keeps a close eye on North Korea’s missile program.
In the test carried out late Thursday, an interceptor missile from a naval destroyer, the USS Hopper, shot down a short-range ballistic missile, the Missile Defense Agency said in a statement.
The destroyer’s Aegis weapon system “successfully guided the SM-3 (interceptor) to a direct body-to-body hit, approximately two minutes after leaving the ship,” the agency said.
“The intercept occurred about 100 miles (161 kilometers) above the Pacific Ocean,” it said.
On July 4, the US Independence Day holiday, North Korea launched seven missiles into the Sea of Japan in defiance of United Nations resolutions.
It was the biggest salvo of ballistic weaponry since the North fired a long-range Taepodong-2 and six smaller missiles in 2006, also on July 4.
North Korea’s long-range missiles in theory could threaten the US Pacific coast, and before July 4 officials in Washington said the regime might launch a missile towards the US island state of Hawaii.
In Thursday’s test, the target missile was launched from the island of Kauai and two other warships joined in the test dubbed “Stellar Avenger,” which was a joint effort of the US Navy and the Missile Defence Agency.
The latest test marks the 19th successful shoot-down out of 23 tests at sea using the Aegis missile defense system, including knocking out a malfunctioning US spy satellite in February 2008, it said.
Lockheed Martin and New Jersey-based Sensors are main contractors for the Aegis system on naval ships, and Raytheon is the prime contractor for the interceptor missiles.