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Thaad blocks IRBM during test in Alaska, says Pentagon

July 13,2017
The Pentagon announced Tuesday that its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in Alaska successfully intercepted an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) flown over the Pacific Ocean the same day, saying that the test now improves the country’s defense capability against developing missile threats from North Korea.

North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last week was not directly mentioned in the statement by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), which executed the Thaad test, but the North was the only country that was specifically noted among “countries around the globe” that pose missile threats to the United States.

It was the first time the MDA tested a Thaad interception for an IRBM, which has the ability to fly between 3,000 and 5,500 kilometers (1,864 to 3,418 miles), shorter than an ICBM’s range of more than 5,500 kilometers.

The technology in the Thaad shield was designed to shoot down missiles with ranges shorter than an ICBM. The MDA conducted its first live-test to shoot down an ICBM using another ground-based missile defense system last month, which the agency said was a complete success.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the government and contractor team who executed this flight test today,” said Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, director of the MDA.

“This test further demonstrates the capabilities of the Thaad weapon system and its ability to intercept and destroy ballistic missile threats.”

The demonstration was the 14th successful intercept out of 14 attempts, the MDA said, adding that soldiers from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade conducted launcher, fire control and radar operations using the same procedures they would use in an “actual combat scenario.”

“Thaad is strictly a defense system,” the agency said, adding that it uses hit-to-kill technology whereby kinetic energy destroys the incoming target, mitigating the effects of any enemy weapons before they hit the ground.

The missile target was said to have been air-launched by a U.S. Air Force C-17 over the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii. A Thaad system in Kodiak, Alaska, detected, tracked and intercepted the target, said the MDA.

Alaska made recent headlines when several American experts said after North Korea’s ICBM launch on July 4 that the missile could have reached the state had it been flown at a standard trajectory.

Mentioning the MDA’s Thaad demonstration in a news report Wednesday, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said Washington would be “foolish” to stage a military attack against the regime and that it should neither overlook nor misjudge “the fact that its mainland and the Pacific operation area” are within its strike range.

The report urged American and South Korean “warmongers” to understand that their “reckless acts would only invite miserable disasters.”

North Korea has vehemently expressed its dismissal to South Korea’s Thaad system numerous times before, accusing it of being another attempt by Washington to take control over the Korean Peninsula and topple its regime.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]