Washington: The US military on Friday
successfully conducted its "most challenging test to date" of
a ballistic missile defence system it will deploy in Europe to
counter an Iran missile threat, officials said.
"Initial indications are that all components performed
as designed," said the Pentagon`s Missile Defence Agency in a
statement of the test over the Pacific Ocean in which the
latest Aegis ballistic missile defence weapon system
successfully intercepted an intermediate-range threat missile.
"The two demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance
Satellites, launched by MDA in 2009, successfully acquired the
target missile, providing stereo `birth to death` tracking of
the target," the agency added.
The ground- and sea-based defence system is meant to
shield the United States and its European allies from a
potential ballistic missile attack, possibly from North Korea
The defence agency said the test "demonstrated the
capability of the first phase of the European Phased Adaptive
Approach announced by the president in September, 2009."
The plan put forward by President Barack Obama 19
months ago envisions a mobile system of sea-based interceptors
that would protect against short- and medium-range missiles
from Iran, rather than Tehran`s yet-to-be-developed long-range
The Pentagon scrapped an earlier plan -- strongly
opposed by Moscow -- that would have seen US missile defence
facilities deployed in Eastern Europe.
The Aegis system has suffered some high-profile
setbacks in the form of multiple failed tests, including in
December when an interceptor rocket meant to knock out
incoming ballistic missiles failed its second test in a row.
Out of 15 tests of ground-based interceptors since
1999, seven have failed, the defence department noted at the
Today`s test saw the ballistic missile target launched
from an atoll in the Marshall Islands, some 2,300 miles (3,700
kilometers) southwest of Hawaii at 6:52 pm (0652 GMT).
US Navy sailors on the destroyer USS O`Kane launched
an SM-3 Block IA missile approximately 11 minutes later, which
released a kinetic warhead at target.
"The kinetic warhead acquired the target, diverted
into its path, and, using only force of a direct impact,
destroyed the threat in a `hit-to-kill` intercept," the agency