May 29, 2017 13:30
The U.S. is planning a missile defense test in California on Tuesday to prepare for an intercontinental ballistic missile attack from North Korea, the Associated Press reported Friday.
"The goal is to more closely simulate a North Korean ICBM aimed at the U.S. homeland," AP said.
This aim is to prepare for a time when the North has developed a full-range intercontinental ballistic missile that can strike the U.S. It recently tested a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile with a range of 4,500 to 5,000 km.
"The target will be a custom-made missile meant to simulate an ICBM," but "not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM," AP quoted a spokesman for the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency as saying. "It will fly faster than missiles used in previous intercept tests."
Any intercontinental missile would need a range of at least 10,000 km if it is to strike the U.S. mainland. In that case it would fall at a speed of Mach 24 to 25 when it re-enters the atmosphere and its warhead would need to withstand a heat of 7,000 to 8,000 degrees Celsius.
The interceptor missile will be launched from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and slam into the target, which will be fired from a test range in the Pacific, thousands of kilometers away.
The Ground-Based Interceptor is capable of hitting an incoming ICBM above the atmosphere as it can reach an altitude of 2,000 km and has a range of 5,300 km.
Twenty-six GBIs were deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska and four at Vandenberg in 2013. Fourteen more will be deployed by year's end, bringing the total to 44.
To intercept missiles, the U.S. first uses GBIs and Aegis ship-based SM-3 missiles and then, if this stage of defense fails, Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense and PAC-3 missiles.
"The U.S. seems to have been caught off guard by the North's recent rapid success in developing Hwasong-12 mid-range missile and Pukguksong-2 solid-fuel intermediate-range missile," a military source here speculated.
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