US destroyer blocks mock North Korean ballistic missile in test

WASHINGTON • A US Navy destroyer successfully intercepted a mock intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) designed to simulate one developed by North Korea, a Pentagon official said.

The Aegis-class destroyer operating near Hawaii yesterday fired a Standard Missile-3 model Block II A made by Raytheon Technologies at the target launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

“This was an incredible accomplishment and critical milestone” for the Aegis programme, Vice-Admiral Jon Hill, director of the US Missile Defence Agency, said in a statement.

The test showed the Raytheon missile “can defeat an ICBM-class target, which is a step in the process of determining its feasibility as part of an architecture for layered defence of the homeland”.

The successful intercept means the incoming Biden administration may have a new naval weapon that could intercept an ICBM if North Korea fired a missile at the continental United States.

Navy vessels with the US 7th Fleet equipped with the new interceptor could be stationed near North Korea for intercepts shortly after launch. That would be in addition to 44 interceptors in silos in Alaska and California.

The missile tested has an increased range, a bigger motor, more sensitive missile-seeking technology and an advanced “kill vehicle”, or warhead.

None of the missiles have been installed on US Navy vessels so far.

The missile was developed by Massachusetts-based Raytheon and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Japan is buying the missile to bolster its defences against North Korea.

The missile is also the centrepiece of US-European missile defence programmes and is scheduled to be installed in Poland.