The U.S. military is conducting a flight test today to exercise the ground-based mid-course defense element of the nation's ballistic missile defense system, according to a Pentagon spokesman.
The test will involve a threat representative intercontinental ballistic missile class target to be fired from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Marshall Islands and a ground-based interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters.
The launch is scheduled to occur between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. EDT, he said.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the U.S. Air Force's 30th Space Wing and U.S. Northern Command are conducting the test, he said.
Evaluation of Missile Defense System
"This is the first test event against an ICBM-class target for the ground-based mid-course defense system," Davis said. "Program officials will evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test."
A release and video are expected from the Missile Defense Agency, Davis said.
Ballistic missile proliferation continues to be a concern for the United States as additional countries acquire a greater number of ballistic missiles, Davis said.
Those countries, according to Davis, are increasing the range and incorporating ballistic missile defense countermeasures and making them more complex, survivable, reliable and accurate.
Concerns About North Korea, Iran
Davis highlighted two countries of concern: North Korea and Iran.
While today's test was not timed because of recent North Korean actions, he said, North Korea is one of the reasons why the United States has the capability.
"North Korea has expanded the size and the sophistication of its ballistic missile forces from close-range ballistic missiles to intercontinental ballistic missiles," he said. "They continue to conduct test launches, as we saw even this weekend, while also using dangerous rhetoric that suggests that they would strike the United States homeland."
In addition, Iran continues to develop more sophisticated missiles and improve the range and accuracy of current missile systems, he said.
"Their ballistic missile capability will continue to threaten U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East," he said. "Iran's overall defense strategy relies on a substantial inventory of theater ballistic missiles capable of striking targets throughout the region."