A target was launched from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean and, in response, a Ground-based Interceptor -- a major component of the nation's Ground-based Midcourse Defense system -- was fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. "Although a primary objective was the intercept of a long-range ballistic missile target ... an intercept was not achieved," the press release states.
Several organizations participated in the test, including the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency; U.S. Northern Command; the Joint Functional Component Command, Integrated Missile Defense; and the Air Force's 30th Space Wing. Officials will undertake a thorough assessment of the test to understand what caused the failure, according to the release.
The GBI system, which is the primary means of defending the homeland United States against ICBM strikes by North Korea and Iran, has not had a successful test intercept since 2008. To date, only 50 percent of the 16 intercept attempts have been successful, Reuters reported.
The Defense Department last week said it would proceed with plans to acquire 14 new GBI missiles, at a cost of roughly $1 billion, for fielding by 2017 in Alaska, regardless of the outcome of Friday's assessment. The test was previously reported to involve a first-generation exoatmospheric kill vehicle that is already fielded on silo-based GBI missiles in Alaska and California.
Philip Coyle, the Pentagon's former top weapons testing official, in provided remarks said the latest test failure shows the technology "is something the U.S. military, and the American people, cannot depend upon," the New York Times reported.