US successfully tests missile defense system in Hawaii

Navy sailors intercept ballistic missile target

By CNN'S BARBARA STARR AND ZACHARY COHEN CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.
U.S. Air Force via CNN

(CNN) - The US conducted a successful missile defense test on Tuesday in the latest advancement in US capabilities to defend against ballistic missiles.

US Navy sailors in Hawaii successfully intercepted an intermediate range ballistic missile target with an interceptor missile launched from land using the Aegis Ashore system, the US Missile Defense Agency said in a statement.

The intermediate range ballistic missile target was air-launched by a US Air Force C-17 from the ocean thousands of miles away from Hawaii, the agency said.

"Today's successful flight test demonstrated the effectiveness of the European Phased Adaptive Approach Phase 3 architecture," Missle Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in a statement. "It also was of great significance to the future of multi-domain missile defense operations and supports a critical initial production acquisition milestone for the (Standard Missile)-3 Block IIA missile program."

Greaves added, "This system is designed to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies, and friends from a real and growing ballistic missile threat."

The SM-3 Block IIA Missile is being developed to eventually intercept intercontinental range missiles, like the types that North Korea has vowed to launch against the United States, but, as of now, this is the first successful test of the missile intercepting an intermediate range ballistic missile. It is also the first successful intercept launched from shore rather than from the Navy Aegis ships.

President Donald Trump has asserted that North Korea is "no longer a nuclear threat" following his June summit with dictator Kim Jong Un, but commercial satellite images released last month identified more than a dozen undeclared North Korean missile operating bases.

The US military had conducted the same missile defense test in January, but it was unsuccessful, several administration officials told CNN. A successful missile test intercepting a medium-range ballistic missile target was conducted in October.

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