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Defensive missile test launched from Vandenberg hits its target

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Courtesy of the US Air Force
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An ICBM, like the one shown here, launched a dummy target from the Marshall Islands; the target was destroyed by two interceptor missiles from VAFB.

A first-of-its-kind missile test of national defense systems launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base [VAFB] on Monday. The United States Department of Defense is heralding it as a success, striking a target sent into the atmosphere from the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. military fired the missiles around 10:30 a.m. on Monday. It was not publically scheduled or previously announced, as is often the case with launches at VAFB. Central Coast residents reported the ground shaking and seeing twin streaks in the sky. Amtrak temporarily halted trains running through the area.

The two interceptor missiles were meant to destroy a dummy intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] launched from the Reagan Test Site, 4,000 miles away in the Marshall Islands.

Mark Wright is with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. Its mission is "to develop and deploy a layered ballistic missile defense system to defend the United States.” He explained to KCBX  News why the two missiles were launched.

“In this case, the first missile did hit the target,” Wright said. “Since nothing is perfect, if the first missile had missed, the second missile would have been there to take out the re-entry vehicle.”

It’s the second missile that Wright said the military was really focused on, and what made the test “monumental.” Even though the first missile hit its targe, the second successfully scanned the area to see if it still needed to take anything out, and then flew itself into the largest, or “most lethal” piece of remaining debris. While his department was happy with the success, he added this is not new missile technology.

“[This test] was representative of what we defend the United States with,” Wright said. “So that can give some real confidence to (U.S.) Northern Command (in Colorado), who is responsible for defending the homeland—that both [missiles] worked perfectly.”

When asked what message this sends to possible adversaries of the United States, Wright said he leaves that to the State Department, which did not immediately return requests for comment.

Write said program officials will continue to evaluate the missiles’ performance based upon other data gathered during the test.

The last U.S. missile defense test was in May of 2017.

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