A missile defense system successfully intercepted two different targets at the same time during a test in Hawaii, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said Wednesday.
It was the first time the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System intercepted two ballistic missile targets simultaneously, the agency said. It was designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in their last stage of flight.
The test took place at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai just before 8 p.m. local time Tuesday. It involved dropping one target from an airplane over the ocean and launching a second target from a decommissioned helicopter carrier on the ocean.
The successful test, which was conducted under simulated combat conditions, brings the system a step closer to actual deployment, said Richard Lehner, an agency spokesman in Washington, D.C.
"Since we can expect missile attacks to include more than one missile, it's important that we are able to conduct tests against what we call `raids,' and that we can exercise the radars and command and control system necessary to thwart such raids under realistic conditions," he said.
It was the first time soldiers participated in a test of the system under those conditions _ with limitations for safety _ including not knowing what time the exercise would occur, said Cammy Montoya, spokeswoman for the Army Test and Evaluation Command. Previous tests have been conducted during planned times.
The missile defense system is one of two tested at the facility on Kauai's west coast. The other is the sea-based Aegis system.
"THAAD is the only missile defense system that can intercept missile both inside the atmosphere and outside the atmosphere," Lehner said. "Other missile defense technologies do either one or the other."
The Missile Defense Agency coordinates U.S. missile tests in cooperation with the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Officials will review data gathered from the test to evaluate the effectiveness of the system.