An Incredible Technological Feat: Interceptor Missile Shoots Down ICBM

An rocket designed to intercept an intercontinental ballistic missiles is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Calif. on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. The Pentagon says it has shot down a mock warhead over the Pacific in a success for America's missile defense program. The test was the first of its kind in nearly three years. And it was the first test ever targeting an intercontinental-range missile like North Korea is developing. (Matt Hartman via AP)

It’s often compared to a “bullet hitting a bullet.” A Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptor missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California yesterday successfully made contact with and destroyed a mock ICBM launched from a test site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

The GMD has had several failures in the past, but improvements in its divert thruster system, which makes minute course corrections as the interceptor homes in on its target, apparently helped the bird score a success.

The Pentagon is being cautiously optimistic, saying that they want to examine flight data to get a good picture of what happened. But it seems clear that a huge technological hurdle in anti-missile technology may have been surmounted.

The success of the interceptor doesn’t mean that the U.S. is now immune to a nuclear strike — even from North Korea. But it is definitely a breakthrough.

Somewhere, The Gipper is smiling.