The United States has for the first time successfully carried out an intermediate-range missile intercept test using the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said Tuesday.
An intermediate-range ballistic missile target was air-launched by a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft over the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii. That missile was detected and tracked by a THAAD system in Kodiak, Alaska, which ultimately intercepted the target.
This test marks the 14th successful test of the THAAD system and the first test of an intermediate-range missile -- rather than a short or medium-range -- missile. The test is different than the Intercontinental ballistic missile intercept test conducted on May 30, which targeted a missile at a much higher altitude.
A THAAD system is currently deployed to South Korea.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the government and contractor team who executed this flight test today,” said MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves in a statement. “This test further demonstrates the capabilities of the THAAD weapon system and its ability to intercept and destroy ballistic missile threats. THAAD continues to protect our citizens, deployed forces and allies from a real and growing threat.”
The test, which had been planned for months, came one week after North Korea launched a two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile that demonstrated a range that could threaten Alaska and even Seattle.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the test was a "package of gifts" for the U.S. given "on its Independence Day." This was the 10th North Korean missile test this year.