US Military Shoots ICBM Target Out of the Sky in Missile Defense Test

Missiles shot from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base successfully destroyed an airborne target Monday (March 25) as part of a U.S. missile defense test, military officials said.

The target was an intercontinental ballistic missile launched from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, about 4,000 miles (6,440 kilometers) from Vandenberg.

During the test, sensors in space, on the ground and at sea helped guide two ground-based interceptors (GBI) fired from Vandenberg. The first interceptor destroyed the target, a re-entry vehicle, while the second one searched the remaining debris for other threatening objects. Since there were no re-entry vehicles in the debris, the second missile hit the next "most lethal object" in the wreckage and also destroyed it, U.S. Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency (MDA) officials said in a statement.

Related: How Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles Work (Infographic) 

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A threat-representative ICBM target launches from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands March 25, 2019 in this long-exposure photo. It was successfully intercepted by two ground-based interceptor missiles launched from California.

A threat-representative ICBM target launches from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands March 25, 2019 in this long-exposure photo. It was successfully intercepted by two ground-based interceptor missiles launched from California.
(Image credit: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)
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One of two Ground-Based Interceptors launches from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to destroy an ICBM target launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean on March 25, 2019.

One of two Ground-Based Interceptors launches from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to destroy an ICBM target launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean on March 25, 2019.
(Image credit: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)
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The 'lead' Ground-based Interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., March 25, 2019, in the first-ever salvo engagement test of a threat-representative ICBM target. It was the first of two missiles launched to intercept an ICBM target vehicle by the Missile Defense Agency.

The 'lead' Ground-based Interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., March 25, 2019, in the first-ever salvo engagement test of a threat-representative ICBM target. It was the first of two missiles launched to intercept an ICBM target vehicle by the Missile Defense Agency.
(Image credit: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)
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The 'trail' Ground-based Interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., March 25, 2019. The remnants of a plume from a second launch in the salvo can be seen at right.

The 'trail' Ground-based Interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., March 25, 2019. The remnants of a plume from a second launch in the salvo can be seen at right.
(Image credit: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)
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This infrared image shows the successful destruction of a threat-representative ICBM target by two long-range Ground-based Interceptors launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., March 25, 2019. The salvo missile intercept was the first of its kind.

This infrared image shows the successful destruction of a threat-representative ICBM target by two long-range Ground-based Interceptors launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., March 25, 2019. The salvo missile intercept was the first of its kind.
(Image credit: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)
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A final infrared image of the successful intercept of a threat-representative ICBM target by two long-range Ground-based Interceptors launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., March 25, 2019.

A final infrared image of the successful intercept of a threat-representative ICBM target by two long-range Ground-based Interceptors launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., March 25, 2019.
(Image credit: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)

"This was the first GBI salvo intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target, and it was a critical milestone," Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves, director of the MDA, said in the statement. "The system worked exactly as it was designed to do ... The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat."

A first-ever test March 25, 2019 saw two ground-based interceptors launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California intercepting an intercontinental ballistic missile target launched from a separate test site.

(Image credit: U.S. Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency)

Officials added in the statement that they are evaluating the system performance to get more information, but everything received so far shows that the test "met requirements." 

This is the latest in a series of tests testing examining how the United States would respond to ICBM threats. One possible nation that could be threatening is North Korea, which has conducted its own tests and said in the past that the United States is among the nations it hopes to destroy.

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