Successful US missile intercept ends era of nuclear stability

Last month, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was fired in the general direction of the Hawaiian islands. During its descent a few minutes later, still outside the earth's atmosphere, it was struck by another missile that destroyed it. With that detonation, the world's tenuous nuclear balance suddenly threatened to come out of kilter.

The danger of atom bombs being used again was already increasing. Now it's grown once more. The ICBM flying over the Pacific was an American dummy designed to test a new kind of interceptor technology. As it flew, satellites spotted it and alerted an Air Force base in Colorado, which in turn communicated with a navy destroyer positioned north-east of Hawaii. This ship, the USS John Finn, fired its own missile which, in the jargon, hit and killed the incoming one.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2020, with the headline 'Successful US missile intercept ends era of nuclear stability'. Print Edition | Subscribe