US intercepts short-range ballistic missile target in test off Hawaii

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

US intercepts ballistic missile in test off Hawaii

HONOLULU — The U.S. military says it successfully shot down a short-range ballistic missile in a test off Hawaii.

Soldiers of the 6th Air Defense Artillery Brigade from Fort Bliss, Texas, fired the interceptor from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. It shot down the target, which was fired after 9:30 p.m. Monday from a decommissioned amphibious assault ship positioned offshore, during the target’s final stage of flight.

The soldiers firing the interceptor didn’t know ahead of time when the target missile was going to be launched.

“Preliminary indications are that planned flight test objectives were achieved,” the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said in a statement.

The test was the latest for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which is part of a planned missile defense shield for the United States. Other parts of the network include a floating sea-based radar and interceptors fired from ships.

The military also has Patriot anti-missile batteries to intercept missiles just before they strike.

The agency said Monday’s intercept occurred at the lowest altitude to date for the THAAD system.

The THAAD system intercepts targets at higher altitudes, allowing it to defend larger area than the Patriots. Even so, it can only shoot down short and medium-range missiles. Intercontinental ballistic missiles are out of its range.

The THAAD system is one of two missile defense systems the military tests at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. The other is the sea-based Aegis system.

The Missile Defense Agency coordinates U.S. missile tests in cooperation with the Army, Navy and Air Force.

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