The US military shot a missile out of the sky over the Pacific Ocean yesterday, in a successful test of America's controversial ballistic missile defence program. And the Pentagon just released video of the test, showing both the launch of the dummy missile from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, as well as the successful destruction of the missile from an interceptor missile launched at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The idea of shooting missiles out of the sky with other missiles has a long and shaky history. Sceptics of Reagan's 1980s missile defence program, derided by critics as Star Wars, said the plan was like trying to shoot bullet with another bullet. Well, in yesterday's test, the bullet hit the bullet.
As Military.com points out, the Ground-based Midcourse Defence (GMD) element of North America's ballistic missile defence system has failed eight of the system's previous 17 tests. Despite so many failures, critics of the program's efficacy have questioned whether the tests are too easy. Some people questioned whether the missile used in yesterday's test had a homing device in it. The military insists that it did not.
"The intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target is an incredible accomplishment for the GMD system and a critical milestone for this program," Navy Vice Admiral Jim Syring of the Missile Defence Agency said yesterday in a statement. "This system is vitally important to the defence of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat."
The test comes amid heightened tensions in the Pacific region, as North Korea continues to conducts its own less impressive missile tests. Yesterday's test is estimated to have cost roughly $US244 million ($328 million).
"North Korea is obviously one of the reasons why we have this capability," a Pentagon spokesman told the Washington Post, while emphasising that there is no direct tie to the current rhetoric from the US and North Korea about the possibility of nuclear war.
"I was confident before the test," Vice Admiral Syring told reporter Kristina Wong. "I'm even more confident today after seeing the intercept test yesterday."
Now if only Kim Jong-un and President Trump could both pull their heads out of their asses and start meaningful de-escalation talks, we might avoid World War III.