The United States plans to carry out a new test of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system against an intermediate-range ballistic missile in the coming days, said US officials on Friday, as tensions with the DPRK climb.
Planned months ago, the US missile defense test will gain significance in the wake of the DPRK's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 4 that has heightened concerns about the threat from Pyongyang.
The test will be the first of THAAD to defend against a simulated attack by an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), one of the officials said. The THAAD interceptors will be fired from Alaska.
The US has THAAD interceptors in Guam that are meant to help guard against missile attacks from countries such as the DPRK.
The US Missile Defense Agency confirmed that it aimed to carry out a THAAD flight test "in early July."
Chris Johnson, a spokesman at the Missile Defense Agency, said the THAAD weapon system at the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, Alaska, would "detect, track and engage a target with a THAAD interceptor."
"The test is designated as Flight Test THAAD (FTT)-18," Johnson said, without elaborating.
In a testimony to Congress in May, however, Vice Admiral James Syring, then director of the Missile Defense Agency, said FTT-18 would aim to demonstrate THAAD's ability to intercept a separating IRBM target.
THAAD is a ground-based missile defense system that defends against short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles at the terminal stage of flight.
Syring, in his testimony, said THAAD had a 100-percent successful track record in its 13 flight tests so far. Lockheed Martin Corp is the prime contractor for the THAAD system.
Lockheed Martin Corp is the prime contractor for the THAAD system.