Missile defense test from Kodiak reportedly successful

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - 12:45
Leah Garton/Missile Defense Agency

By JOANN SNODERLY joann@kodiakdailymirror.com

An anti-ballistic missile intercept test from Kodiak Island was successfully completed early Tuesday morning. It was the first launch from the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska since the August 2014 failure of a U.S. Army hypersonic weapon test that destroyed several buildings at the facility.

The Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Army tested the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense component of the U.S. ballistic missile defense system. THAAD uses a direct hit to intercept a target in its final phase of flight.

“Preliminary indications are that planned flight test objectives were achieved and the threat-representative, intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) target was successfully intercepted by the THAAD weapon system,” according to a Missile Defense Agency release.

The system has a 100 percent success rate in 14 tests.

THAAD has gained recognition as the U.S. has moved units to Guam and South Korea to counter missile threats from North Korea.

While THAAD testing from the facility was announced last year, Tuesday’s test comes one week after North Korea’s first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile reportedly capable of reaching Alaska.

“This test further demonstrates the capabilities of the THAAD weapon system and its ability to intercept and destroy ballistic missile threats. THAAD continues to protect our citizens, deployed forces and allies from a real and growing threat,” said Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, director of MDA.

The Flight Test THAAD 18 completed Tuesday demonstrates the system’s ability to intercept intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

A second test from the facility, known as FTT-15, will demonstrate the system’s ability to intercept a medium-range ballistic missile, MDA public affairs officer Leah Garton said in May. The date of that test has not been released.

The ballistic missile target was launched from a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft over the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii, according to the Missile Defense Agency.

U.S. Army soldiers from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade of Fort Bliss, Texas, “conducted launcher, fire control and radar operations using the same procedures they would use in an actual combat scenario. Soldiers operating the equipment were not aware of the actual target launch time,” according to the MDA.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-AK, praised the launch Tuesday morning. Sullivan serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Last night’s successful THAAD test provided further confirmation that we have the capability to defend our bases, our troops and our allies in places like Japan, South Korea and Guam against rogue nations like North Korea,” he said in a statement. “It was also an important demonstration of how the THAAD system has evolved, now with the proven capability of intercepting an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile.”

Gov. Bill Walker also praised the launch.

“I join my fellow Alaskans and all Americans in congratulating the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the staff of the Alaska Aerospace Corporation at Pacific Space Complex-Alaska for yesterday’s successful launch ... Alaska is proud to be in the forefront as the Pentagon assures this system will succeed when needed most.”

Snoderly can be reached at (907) 512-2624. Follow her on Twitter, @KDMjoann