Millions of Southern Californians may feel a bit safer Wednesday after an American rocket successfully shot down an incoming test missile over the Pacific Ocean designed to simulate a North Korean nuclear attack.
In a launch visible in select parts of the Southland, U.S. Air Force officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base successfully launched the ground-based interceptor missile that blasted out of the sky the incoming rocket.
The drill was “an incredible accomplishment” aimed in part at preparing for a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile strike, according to one military official.
The interceptor missile was launched from Vandenberg in eastern Santa Barbara County Tuesday afternoon.
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.
Vice Admiral James D. Syring, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, praised the successful test, calling it “an incredible accomplishment.”
“This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent,” he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the federal military.
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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