MISSILE DEFENSE TEST
AP
This image provided by Lockheed Martin shows the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD missile being launched from a mobile launcher at Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility Wednesday June 25, 2008. The U.S. military's ground-based missile defense system destroyed a missile launched from an airplane Wednesday in the first successful test of the system's ability to destroy a separating target. The interceptor missile launched off Kauai had to differentiate between the warhead and the body of the missile before destroying it above the Pacific Ocean, according to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. (AP Photo/Lockheed Martin)
updated 6/26/2008 1:30:37 PM ET 2008-06-26T17:30:37

The U.S. military's ground-based missile defense system destroyed a missile launched from an airplane in the first successful test of the system's ability to destroy a warhead that separates from its booster, the Missile Defense Agency said.

The interceptor missile launched off Kauai on Wednesday had to differentiate between the warhead and the body of the missile before destroying the warhead above the Pacific Ocean, the agency said. It was the fifth successful intercept in five attempts since 2005 for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, according to the agency.

The system used a mobile launcher at Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility to shoot down a target representing a ballistic missile, said Lt. Gen. Henry "Trey" Obering.

The threat missile was launched from a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft flying over the Pacific Ocean. The interceptor missile was fired six minutes later.

Like the Patriot anti-missile defenses, THADD is designed to knock out ballistic missiles in their final minute of flight. However, it is designed to intercept targets at higher altitudes, enabling it to defend a larger area.

THADD is one of two missile defense systems being tested at the Navy's Hawaii missile range. The sea-based Aegis system completed its own successful test on June 5.

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