This afternoon’s test of a Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) missile against an ICBM-type target was successful. The Pentagon has confirmed that the mock warhead was destroyed. GBI is a land based missile, and the backbone of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system that has been developed to defend the United States against a limited ICBM attack. The GBI was launched from a silo at Vandenberg AFB in California and intercepted its target over the Pacific Ocean. The system has had limited amounts of success in the past. Roughly half of the intercept tests held up until now have failed. Today’s test, which had been planned for a year, is the first time a GBI has gone up against a close simulation of the type of target missile it is designed to kill.
The timing of the test is every bit as relevant as the results. With tension increasing over North Korea’s push to develop its own ICBM capability, today’s test at Vandenberg is a direct message to Kim Jong Un. Not only does the US possess the ability to turn North Korea into the world’s largest sheet of glass in the event of a North Korean launch, there is no guarantee that any future North Korea’s missile design can penetrate the defenses provided by Ground-based Midcourse Defense. The system does not yet guarantee a 100% chance of intercept, however, today’s results make it clear that it is a credible defense against ICBMs. In other words, this system in development is better than no system at all, and there is much room for improvement in the future.