The Pentagon has disclosed that a missile interceptor launched from a U.S. Navy ship at sea shot down and destroyed a “mock ICBM” that was put into flight for testing purposes on Tuesday.
The move is part of a U.S. effort to develop defenses against intercontinental-range ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States, according to AP. Previous tests had involved interceptors only being launched from underground silos.
The test could pique the interest of North Korea, AP notes, stating that the country’s development of its ICBM’s is part of the main reason the Pentagon has sought to accelerate its interceptor program.
And while Kim Jong Un hasn’t launched any ballistic missile test flights of recent, a shift in tone could occur as a result of the Trump exiting the White House and Biden beginning his term.
Additionally, both Russia and China have expressed concern that the U.S. could “use its missile defenses to undercut the deterrent value of their nuclear forces”. Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons and missile expert with the Federation of American Scientists thinks it will propel China to expand its long-range missile arsenal.
“It’s going to fuel further the mindset that this buildup is justified,” he said.
Navy Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said the test was “an incredible accomplishment and critical milestone” and that ship-based approaches could provide “a hedge against unexpected developments in the missile threat.”
Laura Grego, a physicist and missile defense expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists was – you guessed it – concerned. She said: “It is likely to have a crushing effect on prospects for new arms control agreements and will also provide motivation (or justification) for Russia and China to diversify and grow their nuclear weapons arsenals.”
This week’s tested used an Aegis SM-3 missile built by Raytheon Missiles & Defense was fired from a U.S. Navy destroyer situated in the Pacific.