A long-range ground-based interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2014. Courtesy Missile Defense Agency

In a launch visible in select parts of the Southland, U.S. Air Force officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base launched a ground-based interceptor missile Tuesday in a drill aimed in part at preparing for a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile strike.

The missile was launched from Vandenberg in eastern Santa Barbara County around 1 p.m. The launch itself was expected to be visible from as far as 50 miles away, but the intercept of the simulated warhead over the Pacific was not, officials said. The test simulated the interception of a missile fired from the Marshall Islands.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the test was successful.

The test was planned in response to what are regarded as provocations by North Korea, which, as of last week, has  carried out three missile tests in three weeks.

The most recent North Korean test involved a short-range ballistic missile that traveled about 250 miles before splashing down in Japan’s “exclusive economic zone” near the coast.

The American interceptor has an uneven track record, having succeeded nine times out of 17 attempts against missiles in tests since 1999, although the most recent test — in June 2014 — was a success.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to deploy a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching American territory. The North Koreans have not yet tested an intercontinental ballistic missile but are believed to be planning to.

—City News Service

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