U.S. conducts "successful" test of THAAD anti-missile system

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska during Flight Test THAAD (FTT)-18 in Kodiak, Alaska, on July 11, 2017.

Reuters

The U.S. successfully conducted a missile defense test Sunday using a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in Alaska, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said in a statement.

The U.S. Air Force launched a medium-range ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean, and the THAAD system -- in Kodiak, Alaska -- "detected, tracked and intercepted the target," according to the MDA's statement.

Sunday's test marked the 15th successful intercept out of 15 THAAD tests, and it was carried out to collect "threat data" from an interceptor, the MDA said.

The data collected will improve the Missile Defense Agency's "ability to stay ahead of the evolving threat," MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in the agency's statement.

The THAAD test follows North Korea's second test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which took place late Friday night. North Korea's first ICBM test was conducted on July 4 -- a launch that former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, described to CBS News as a "game changer" because Kim Jong Un is "basically saying to President Trump 'come at me.'"

In direct response to both launches, two U.S. Air Force B-1 bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula over the weekend. The mission was "in response to North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear programs," and "part of the continuing demonstration of ironclad U.S. commitment to our allies," U.S. Pacific Air Forces said in a statement.

"North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability," Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said in the statement. "Diplomacy remains the lead; however, we have a responsibility to our allies and our nation to showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario."

"If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing," he added.

Earlier this year, the U.S. installed a THAAD system in South Korea. It is now operating and can defend against North Korean missiles, the U.S. military said in May.

The THAAD weapons system is strictly for defensive measures and uses "hit-to-kill technology" to destroy targets, the MDA said.