US Thaad missile hits test target amid growing pressure from North Korea

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the US Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency.
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the US Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON  (REUTERS) – The United States said it shot down a medium-range target ballistic missile in its latest test of the country’s Thaad missile defence program, which is designed to protect the country against potential threats from countries such as North Korea and Iran.

The test of the so-called Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system, which the United States wants to set up in South Korea, came two days after North Korea's second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that proved it has the capacity to strike American’s mainland.

The latest US test was planned well before North Korea’s latest missile launch, but it comes at a time of rising tension with the country since Pyongyang launched its first-ever test of an ICBM on July 4.

The Missile Defence Agency (MDA) said Sunday that the US  has now successfully intercepted test targets 15 times for its Thaad weapon system, though the latest test involved a medium-range missile, and not the long-range kind being tested out of North Korea.

Earlier in July, the US conducted its first Thaad test against a long-range intermediate-range ballistic missile similar to the kinds being tested in North Korea. 

“In addition to successfully intercepting the target, the data collected will allow MDA to enhance the Thaad weapon system, our modelling and simulation capabilities, and our ability to stay ahead of the evolving threat,” said MDA Director Lt Gen Sam Greaves in a statement.