A missile from a U.S. Navy ship intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile in a test off Hawaii on Monday, according to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
Sailors on the USS John Paul Jones, a guided-missile destroyer based in Hawaii, conducted the test. The ship's onboard radar detected and tracked the target missile, and Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) guided missiles were launched from the ship to intercept the target, MDA said.
The test came just two days after North Korea fired a KN-17 missile over Japan, triggering sirens and text alerts from the Japanese government to warn citizens of a possible attack. The missile landed in the Pacific Ocean off the east coast of the island of Hokkaido. It was the third time a North Korean missile overflew one of Japan's four main islands, with previous tests in 1998 and 2009.
Guided-missile destroyers like the John Paul Jones could be used to intercept a North Korean missile from locations in the Sea of Japan and elsewhere in the Pacific. Monday's intercept test, like others the U.S. has conducted, was long planned, the MDA said.
Monday's test missile was launched from Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai in Hawaii.
This is the second time a SM-6 missile has intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile target, according to the MDA.
"We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis [ballistic missile defense] ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase," said MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves. "We will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves."
The U.S. frequently tests elements of its missile defense systems.
In July the Air Force launched a medium-range ballistic missile over the Pacific that was intercepted by a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system at a complex in Kodiak, Alaska. That was the 15th intercept in 15 tests for the THAAD system, according to the MDA.
In May the U.S., in the first test of its ground-based intercept system at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile launched from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, 4,200 miles away.
The ground-based interceptor system was designed mainly to counter a North Korean missile threat, a U.S. official said at the time.
In that test, the interceptor collided with the ICBM-class target over the Pacific Ocean a little more than one hour after it was launched.