U.S. missile defense system hits target in key test

| Sunday, June 22, 2014, 7:51 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The missile defense system managed by Boeing Co. on Sunday hit a simulated enemy missile over the Pacific in the first successful intercept test of the program since 2008, the Defense Department said.

The successful intercept will help validate the troubled Boeing-run Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which provides America's sole defense against long-range ballistic missiles, and the Raytheon Co. kill vehicle that separates from the rocket and hits an incoming warhead.

“This is a very important step in our continuing efforts to improve and increase the reliability of our homeland ballistic missile defense system,” said Vice Adm. James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency.

He said the agency would continue its drive to ensure that the ground-based interceptors and overall homeland defense system were effective and dependable.

The Pentagon is restructuring its $3.48 billion contract with Boeing for management of the missile defense system to put more emphasis on maintenance and reliability, Reuters reported on Friday.

Stakes of the test were high because the system failed to hit a dummy missile in five of eight previous tests since the Bush administration rushed to deploy the system in 2004 to counter growing threats by North Korea.

This month, Syring said that a new test failure would force the Pentagon to reassess its plans to add 14 interceptors to the 30 in silos in the ground in Alaska and California.

During the test, a long-range ground-based interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., intercepted an intermediate-range ballistic missile target launched from the Army's Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Pentagon said.

It said all components involved in the test appeared to have performed as designed.

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