The Missile Defense Agency of Department of Defense announced this morning that it successfully completed a test aboard the USS John Finn (DDG-113) destroyer to intercept and destroy an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) target outside Earth’s atmosphere above the broad ocean area northeast of Hawaii.
At approximately 7:50 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, (12:50 a.m., Nov. 17, EST), the ICBM-representative target was launched from a test site located on the Marshall Islands, 2,600 miles from Hawaii. After receiving tracking data, the destroyer launched a missile that destroyed the target.
This is the first time a ship-based missile has successfully intercepted and destroyed a mock ICBM.
According to the Missile Defense Agency’s intercept test record (pdf), as of October 2020, the Missile Defense Agency has conducted 40 successful intercepts in 49 attempts against ballistic missile targets with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system (also known as Sea-Based Midcourse Defense system). But all those targets were short to intermediate-range missiles.
An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is a missile with a minimum range of 3,410 miles.
The Missile Defense Agency also has a Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which aim to shoot down ballistic missiles in their terminal phase (descent or reentry).
The first successful intercept test with the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System was conducted in 1999.
Missile Defense Agency Director, Vice Admiral Jon Hill, said the test “was an incredible accomplishment and critical milestone.”
“My congratulations to the entire test team, including our military and industry partners, who helped us to achieve this milestone,” he continued in the statement.
The defense interceptor was made by Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a business by Raytheon Technologies. The interceptor was co-developed with Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
The mission of the Missile Defense Agency is to develop and deploy a layered Missile Defense System to defend the United States, its allies, and friends. Its origin can trace back to the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program launched by President Reagan in 1983.