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article imageU.S. to test an ICBM 'interceptor' as threat from N. Korea grows

By Karen Graham     May 26, 2017 in Politics
Preparing for the possibility that North Korea will launch an Intercontinental-range missile with a nuclear warhead toward the U.S. mainland, the Pentagon has scheduled a test of its Ground-based Midcourse Defense system for next Tuesday.
Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that if left unchecked, North Korea is on an "inevitable path" to obtaining a nuclear warhead-armed missile capable of striking the United States, reports the Associated Press.
The scheduled testing of an missile interceptor is just the latest indication that the U.S. is taking the rhetoric coming out of Pyongyang about their missile defense systems and the need for nuclear weapons very seriously.
At the Senate hearing, Stewart and the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats were pressed by lawmakers for information on how far away North Korea might be from having an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
Stewart and Coats refused to offer an estimate, saying that in doing so, they would reveal any knowledge the U.S. might have on North Korea's capabilities, reports Reuters.
"If left on its current trajectory the regime will ultimately succeed in fielding a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening the United States homeland," Stewart said. "While nearly impossible to predict when this capability will be operational, the North Korean regime is committed and is on a pathway where this capability is inevitable."
A UN Security Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday for a behind-closed-doors discussion of North Korea's firing of a solid-fuel Pukguksong-2 missile on Sunday, which was in violation of Security Council resolutions and sanctions. The meeting was called by the U.S., Japan, and South Korea.
Pyongyang has launched a series of missiles this year  including a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range pro...
Pyongyang has launched a series of missiles this year, including a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range projectile this month which the North claimed was capable of carrying a "heavy" nuclear warhead, fuelling tensions with Washington.
Ed JONES, AFP
The missile interceptor we have is the least reliable
Although the Pentagon does have several options in missile defense systems, the one they plan to test fire from an atoll in the Pacific is probably the most technologically challenging and the most unreliable, according to critics.
The basic defense against an incoming missile is to launch a rocket into space and when the timing is exactly right, the rocket will then release a five-foot-long "kill vehicle," according to the experts. The kill vehicle or "Interceptor" has an internal guidance system that steers it into the incoming missile's warhead, destroying it on impact.
The Pentagon says this system is officially called the Ground-based Midcourse Defence system and is likened to "hitting a bullet with a bullet." Christopher Johnson, spokesman for the Missile Defence Agency says the interceptor will be launched from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and will then soar towards its target.
The test ICBM missile will be fired from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific, and, if all goes well, it should be intercepted somewhere high over the Pacific by the "kill vehicle" which will slam into the ICBM-like target’s mock warhead.
“We conduct increasingly complex test scenarios as the program matures and advances,” Johnson said Friday. “Testing against an ICBM-type threat is the next step in that process.” And while Pentagon officials say this is not a "make-or-break test,"one missile expert says it is "astonishing" how many of the tests do fail, even though they're "scripted for success."
More about Icbm, Pentagon, missile interceptor, test nect week, Nuclear fears
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