The United States shot down an intercontinental ballistic missile in space from a warship at sea for the first time ever in a successful demonstration early Tuesday morning, the Missile Defense Agency announced in a news release.
The ICBM was launched into space at approximately 12:50 a.m. EST from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, located on the Marshall Islands. Shortly after, the missile was “intercepted and destroyed” as it traveled above the broad ocean area northeast of Hawaii.
The MDA used an advanced SM-3 Block IIA ballistic missile defense interceptor made by Raytheon Missiles & Defense to destroy the missile. The operation was part of a hypothetical defense of Hawaii scenario, the release noted.
The successful operation marked the first time that the U.S. has shot down an ICBM from a non-grounded site. It is an encouraging development for homeland defense as foreign adversaries such as North Korea continue to develop long-range missile systems capable of reaching the U.S.
This was an incredible accomplishment and critical milestone for the Aegis BMD SM-3 Block IIA program,” MDA Director Vice Admiral Jon Hill said. “We have demonstrated that an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel equipped with the SM-3 Block IIA missile can defeat an ICBM-class target, which is a step in the process of determining its feasibility as part of an architecture for layered defense of the homeland. My congratulations to the entire test team, including our military and industry partners, who helped us to achieve this milestone.”
The MDA made a video of the test available in its release, which can be seen below:
In a separate news release, Raytheon also celebrated the “historic” event.
“This first-of-its-kind test shows that our nation has a viable option for a new layer of defense against long-range threats,” Bryan Rosselli, vice president of Strategic Missile Defense at the company, said. Raytheon added in the release that the interceptor was co-developed with Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Fox News noted that previous tests to shoot down ICBMs have been conducted using ground-based interceptors launched from military bases in Alaska and California.
The demonstration was performed to fulfill a congressional mandate to test the interceptor before the end of 2020, MDA officials said. It was originally scheduled for May but was moved back due to personnel issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.