A missile fired from a U.S. warship has successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). This is the first time the United States has shot down an ICBM with anything other than a ground-based interceptor. The test comes a month after North Korea unveiled a new ICBM whose warhead is thought to be capable of re-entering the atmosphere.
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced on Tuesday that a missile fired from the USS John Finn (DDG-113) intercepted and destroyed a test ICBM. The USS John Finn is a U.S. Navy warship equipped with an Aegis BMD that is equipped with the “SM-3 Block IIA missile.”
According to the MDA, the test ICBM was fired at 12:50 a.m. on the day from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site of the U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll on the Marshall Islands towards northeast of Hawaii. The vessel analyzed the track and fired on and destroyed the target with the SM-3IIA. “This was an incredible accomplishment and critical milestone for the Aegis BMD SM-3 Block IIA program,” said Vice Adm. Jon Hill, adding that it would hedge against unexpected developments in the missile threat.
Meanwhile, the U.S. intelligence agency reportedly assesses that Pyongyang has secured re-entry vehicle technology and is capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. “The CIA has assessed that Pyongyang’s ICBM re-entry vehicles would likely perform adequately if flown on a normal trajectory to continental U.S. targets,” said Washington-based think tank Heritage Foundation in a report for “2021 Index of U.S. Military Strength.”
ICBM re-entry technology, alongside the miniaturization of warheads, is the “last step” in achieving the capability to hit the United States because re-entry vehicles should endure 8,000 degrees Celsius heat as they re-enter the atmosphere from space at 20 times the speed of sound.