The best weapons work against a variety of targets and in many different scenarios. Sometimes, a specific target is so tough or so-well defended a custom weapon is needed to destroy it. Here are 5 weapons created to destroy a single target or set of targets.
1. The Dutch “floating volcano”
The explosion that destroyed the Swedish warship Kronan in battle in 1676 was a fraction of the size of the “Hellraiser” ship at the Siege of Antwerp in 1585.
In 1585, Dutch defenders at Antwerp needed to break the Spanish siege they were stuck behind. Targeting a pontoon bridge across the River Schelde, the Dutch defenders created “hellraisers.”
Constantinople had survived 1,000 years of sieges by the time Sultan Mehmed II began eyeing it. To crack the walls of the fortress, Mehmed accepted an offer from a Hungarian cannon expert to build the “Basilica cannon,” a 27-ft-long cannon that fired a 30-inch round.
Developed by Dr. Barnes Wallace, bouncing bombs carried 6,600 pounds of high-explosive as they skipped across the water surface to get past German torpedo nets at well-defended German dams. The bombs reached the dams and sunk along the wall before detonating.
The prospects for the cannon were dealt a double blow by the Allied invasion on D-day and a Royal Air Force bombing of the cannon a month later on July 6, 1944. The weapon was moved to Germany and fired just 44 rounds during the Battle of the Bulge.
The martial tradition, training, and dominating warrior spirit of Gurkhas means they will do things in a fight that wouldn’t occur to even the most seasoned combat veterans. Gurkhas will fight outnumbered; they will fight outgunned. They hold their positions against impossible odds and often come out on top.
One of these stories of Gurkha heroism comes from Lachhiman Gurung in Burma after he was taken by surprise when Japanese troops opened up on him and his men and lobbed some grenades into their trench. Gurung picked up two of the grenades and threw them back to the 200 Japanese soldiers waiting in the darkness.
The third grenade blew up in Gurung’s hand.
He lost a few fingers, most of his right arm, and took shrapnel in his face and leg. Partially blind, bleeding profusely, and struggling to move, Gurung did something only a Gurkha would do: he pulled his Kukri knife with his good hand, stabbed the ground, and told the Japanese in a booming voice that none of them would make it past that knife.
He then picked up his rifle — a bolt-action Lee-Enfield Mk. III — chambered a round, and invited the enemy to “come fight a Gurkha.”
With his friends dead or dying, Gurung fought for hours, firing his bolt-action Lee-Enfield with one hand and killing anyone who entered his trench. He would lie down until the Japanese were on top of his position, kill the closest one at point-blank range, chamber a new round with his left hand, and then kill the enemy’s battle buddy.
Gurung killed 31 Japanese soldiers this way, fighting until morning the next day.
At the end of the battle, he was shouting “Come and fight. Come and fight. I will kill you!”
Gurung was hospitalized through the end of the war, losing partial vision in his right eye and the use of his right arm. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, Great Britain’s highest military honor, and was the only recipient still alive when his command presented medals for the battle.
He eventually moved to the U.K. to live out his life in peace. But he reemerged in 2008 when a controversial policy revoked the rights of some Gurkha veterans who retired before 1997 to live in the country. The government said the Gurkhas failed to “demonstrate strong ties to the U.K.”
Lachhiman Gurung put on his medals rack, went over to Britain’s High Court, and made another “last stand” — this time for his fellow WWII-era Gurkhas, and he pleaded to the Court and to the Queen to be allowed to stay.
At 222 feet across, almost 300 feet long, and 65 feet tall at its tail, Lockheed Martin’s C-5 Galaxy is the largest transport aircraft in the US Air Force. With a cargo hull 121 feet long and 19 feet across, the C-5 is a flying warehouse that can carry a combat-ready military unit or deliver necessary supplies anywhere in the world.
The C-5 has a cargo capacity of 142 tons, the equivalent of carrying two M1A1 Abrams tanks, six greyhound buses, or 25,844,746 ping-pong balls. Below, see just how awesome the C-5’s carrying capacity is.
In January 1973, the United States agreed to end direct combat operations in Vietnam. Under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords, the fighting between North and South Vietnam was also temporarily halted. Though the accords were never ratified by the Senate, on March 29, 1973 the last U.S. troops left Vietnam, ending more than twenty years of military assistance and eight years of direct combat support from the U.S. military. With only a handful of Marines left to guard the embassy in Saigon, the North Vietnamese government in Hanoi released the last 67 of its admitted prisoners of war.
During World War II Ho Chi Minh fought alongside the American OSS against the Japanese. After the war, Ho declared an independent Vietnam but soon realized the West would restore French rule in what was then known as Indochina. With the help of Communist governments in China and the Soviet Union, Ho led an eight-year insurgency against the French, and the country was split in two in 1954.
The United States began to support South Vietnam as early as 1954. President Eisenhower pledged his unwavering support for the regime of Southern dictator Ngo Dinh Diem. The Diem regime arrested, tortured, and/or killed upwards of 100,000 people whom he suspected supported the Northern Communists. Diem would be killed in a coup in 1963.
In the 1960’s North Vietnamese guerrillas, known as the Viet Cong (VC), began attacking villages and government institutions in the South. By 1965, the U.S. began to send over men and materiel in large numbers, escalating the conflict to a major war. By 1969, the peak of U.S. military involvement, more than half a million U.S. troops were involved in the war. The war included the largest aerial bombing campaigns in history. President Richard Nixon, who was elected on a platform of ending the war, oversaw a brief expansion. Before it ended, the air war expanded, and the conflict migrated into neighboring Cambodia and Laos (attempts to block Northern supply routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail).
The U.S. left South Vietnam in 1973, but the fighting between North and South continued. The year 1974 would be the most costly one for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in terms of combat losses. In 1975, Northern Communist forces captured the southern capital of Saigon and the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. The last Americans were airlifted out on April 30, 1975.
More than three million people were killed in the Vietnam War, including 1.5 million civilians and 58,000 Americans. Ho Chi Minh would not survive the end of the war, dying in 1969. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who oversaw much of the escalation, would not live to see U.S. troops withdraw. He died in January 1973.
As an Army doctor, Green served in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment where he made three combat tours to the Middle East. He also has served as an airborne rifle company commander and as a top Army recruiter.
Viola cited his inability to successfully navigate the confirmation process and Defense Department rules concerning family businesses. He was the founder of the electronic trading firm Virtu Financial.
When Elinor and Arty Nakis brought home the body of their 19-year-old son who had died during a transport mission while deployed with the Army National Guard in Mosul, Iraq, in 2003, an eagle soared over their Sedro-Woolley home.
Another eagle flew overhead on the way to Nathan Nakis’ memorial service, Elinor Nakis recalled.
And in 2008, when the Nakis family helped install indoor climbing and bouldering walls in honor of their son at the Camp Black Mountain Boy Scout camp in Whatcom County, an eagle was there, too.
That’s why Elinor wasn’t surprised to see a young eagle soar overhead Saturday morning during the dedication of the bouldering wall at its new home near Cascade Middle and Evergreen Elementary schools in Sedro-Woolley.
“(Nathan) would be so proud,” she said.
After spending years in storage at a Janicki Industries facility in Hamilton, the bouldering wall formerly housed in Whatcom County is ready to carry on Nathan Nakis’ memory in the community he grew up in.
“We expect this thing to get a lot of use,” Arty Nakis said. “We took the protective covering off last night and it’s already getting used.”
Nathan, a 2002 Sedro-Woolley High School graduate who started in school at Evergreen, was heavily involved with the Boy Scouts, his mother said.
As an adult, the Eagle Scout volunteered and worked at Camp Black Mountain and helped build the camp’s first rope climbing course, Elinor Nakis said.
When the course would close for days at a time due to inclement weather, Nathan would tell his mother how much he hoped to see a covered climbing facility for the Scouts to use. The wall located between the Evergreen and Cascade campuses is covered by a roof.
After his death, the Nakis’ could think of no better way to honor their son.
“Elinor and I have always felt that it took the help of our community to raise our sons,” Arty Nakis said at the dedication. “When we lost Nathan, we felt the support and love of this community stronger than ever.”
When the Boy Scout camp closed in 2012, the climbing wall built in Nathan’s honor couldn’t be salvaged, Arty Nakis said, but the bouldering wall was removed so it could one day find a new home for more to enjoy.
“It’s an honor and a privilege,” Sedro-Woolley School District Superintendent Phil Brockman said. “It’s an honor to have ‘Nathan’s Boulder’ on our campus. Our kids look forward to playing on this.”
The wall is set to be used not only by students attending the schools, but also by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Skagit County’sSedro-Woolley club that shares the same property.
“This is perfect,” Arty Nakis said. “I couldn’t imagine a more perfect spot.”
The district’s special needs students will also utilize the wall for hands-on learning experiences, something that Elinor, a 21-year employee of the Sedro-Woolley School District, is glad to see happen.
“(Whether) it’s Scouting or through the schools, you’ve got to get (kids) out of their comfort zone,” Arty Nakis said. “It builds confidence and trust in each other.”
For Rotary International of Sedro-Woolley President David Bricka, the project took on a special meaning as he remembered his nephew Brian Gurney, who died in December as a result of injuries sustained during a 2014 hiking accident at Pilchuck Falls. Gurney was 19 at the time of the accident.
“(Brian and Nathan) were two great young men that had such an impact,” Bricka said. “They both had 19 years of actively living.”
Sedro-Woolley Mayor Keith Wagoner, a veteran himself with a son currently enlisted, thought the bouldering wall was a perfect fit for the community.
“I have so many friends that went and didn’t come back,” Wagoner said. “Literally thousands of hands have touched this thing. It’s not a monument you stand back and look at.”
Alec Giess, who served with Nathan Nakis and was in the vehicle with him the day Nakis died, drove up for the dedication from Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Giess has become part of the family, Arty Nakis said.
“It was a combat mission on a crummy day,” Giess said. “Everybody liked (Nathan). (Nathan’s story) won’t end now. It’ll keep going.”
In 1933, a certain group of wealthy businessmen were very upset at the idea of Franklin D. Roosevelt being elected President. These titans of American industry thought the U.S. would be better off with a Fascist-style government akin to Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy.
But America thought Hoover sucked.
So these early one-percenters teamed up to allegedly overthrow the government and FDR’s impending New Deal reforms. And while newspapers at the time called it a “gigantic hoax,” a House of Representatives Committee found the allegations “credible,” according to Today I Found Out.
The conspirators included the leaders from Maxwell House coffee, General Motors, Standard Oil, Goodyear, DuPont, Chase Bank, and famously, Prescott Bush, forerunner of America’s own Bushes 41 and 43. They also included the President of Heinz… And we make fun of Canada for using mayo instead of Ketchup.
But Americans don’t change governments through coups d’état. And because of then-retired Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, America never has. A two-time Medal of Honor recipient, Butler was also a patriot and a fan of FDR. Butler supported the rights of veterans from the First World War to receive their promised benefits early, given the state of the economy at the time. Those veterans marched on Washington in a demonstration as a group now known as the Bonus Army.
In 1932, Butler was a widely respected military figure, along the lines of how Colin Powell is thought of today. When Hoover ordered Gen. Douglas MacArthur to destroy the makeshift camps of the Bonus Army, Butler threw his support to Roosevelt in the election of that year.
As the story goes, the businessmen planned to raise a coup army of 500,000 men through various American Legion posts, and then present Roosevelt with an ultimatum which would end with Butler holding absolute power with Roosevelt as a figurehead.
The businessmen failed to anticipate Butler’s reaction to the plot. If they had even tried to anticipate this, they would have noticed Butler actually was a vocal supporter of FDR. Butler let Congress in on the business plot in 1934 and the conspirators avoided being charged for their disloyalty to the United States.
Congress appointed the McCormack-Dickstein Committee to investigate. They found the plot actually did exist, but never made it past the planning stage. The conspirators were still not brought up on charges, even though asking a Marine general to lead the coup seems as if it’s well beyond the planning stage.
As the Marine Corps continues to emphasize innovation and experiments with new gear, service officials are getting ready to equip a single infantry squad with an enviable range of equipment, from suppressors to polymer drum mags and special operations-issue hearing protection.
It’s part of an 18- to 20-month experiment that Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade is calling the “Über Squad.”
Wade, the gunner, or weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, said the plan is for the 13-person unit to keep all the gear for a full training workup and deployment cycle to somewhere in Europe.
The squad will come from Lejeune’s 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, though the originating company has yet to be chosen.
The squad is set to be a miniaturized, weapons-focused version of what the Corps is doing with its “experimental battalion,” 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.
Commandant Gen. Robert Neller announced in 2016 that 3/5 would serve as a testing platform for technologies ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to robots mounted with machine guns, all while remaining an operational infantry battalion.
The unit deployed to the Pacific this spring. As part of its experimental efforts, 3/5 Marines have been equipped with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. The M27 is carried by Marine automatic riflemen, but service officials have discussed the possibility of fielding the weapon as the new service rifle for all or most infantrymen.
Wade has pioneered similar efforts within 2nd Marine Division. He spearheaded an effort last year that put rifle suppressors in the hands of three different companies within 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, to assess how troops fared using them on deployments around the globe.
For this effort, every Marine in the Über Squad will be equipped with an M27; a suppressor; and Ops-Core helmets used by U.S. Special Operations Command with built-in hearing protection systems that muffle noises loud enough to damage eardrums, while magnifying other sounds to maintain troops’ situational awareness.
“This capability protects [Marines’] hearing from high explosives and other loud noises we can’t mitigate in combat,” Wade said. “But digitally, it allowed you to hear ambient sound.”
Experiments to date with suppressors on whole infantry units have shown they work well – so well that a squad leader might not be able to locate his or her own squad by sound on the other side of a hill.
“Not only do we need hearing protection, we need hearing enhancement,” Wade said.
He also plans to fit the section of company-level M240 medium machine guns supporting the squad with suppressors, using equipment borrowed from SOCOM to suppress both barrels of the guns.
Following the kitted-up squad through training and the Corps’ traditional pre-deployment event, the integrated training exercise, or ITX, at Twentynine Palms, California, will give Marines the chance to assess the value of the various gear elements and whether they add net cost or value to the warfighter.
Wade said he is looking forward to seeing his Über Squad contend with Range 400, one of the Corps’ most dynamic ranges and the only one for which overhead fire is authorized.
“For … 30 years, I’ve been running Range 400,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever ran it with a maneuver element that is suppressed and a company-level machine gun element that is also suppressed.”
As a bonus, Marines in the squad will be equipped with Magpul 60-round polymer drum magazines. Military.com reported back in January that various conventional and special operations units were testing the drum in small quantities as a substitute for traditional 30-round magazines.
While the drums offer a lot of portable firepower, there’s also a question of weight to consider. Wade said he planned to set the unit up with about 100 of the drums and let each Marine figure out how many he needed to fight effectively.
“What I think I’m going to find is that, with the ingenuity of the lance corporal, everything is going to find its place,” he said. “My assumption is they’re ultimately going to be carrying one [drum].”
The effort to equip this squad will take shape over the next month, Wade said.
While the technology the Marines will carry is not new or experimental the way a gun-wielding robot is, it has never been issued to individual Marines at the squad level.
Wade plans to survey Marines at the start and end of the effort about their personal feelings and perceptions carrying the gear, and will couple those observations with objective data showing how the squad stacks up against other units at exercises such as ITX.
“We want to know what the Marines’ perception is, do the Marines have confidence in [the gear],” he said.
What happens when U.S. troops in Afghanistan take fire from Taliban fighters, fortified inside a building?
It’s pretty simple. Call in the Warthogs to bring on the BRRRRRT.
The BRRRRRT comes from the A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger cannon. The Avenger fires beer-bottle-sized 30 mm chunks of aluminum alloy at 3,342 feet per second.
More than one re-upload on the internet says the attack is from a Pakistani F-16, but the distinctive BRRRRRT from the GAU-8 is an unmistakeable sound.
So whatever this building is made of – concrete, cinderblocks, who knows – didn’t stand a chance. It’s no wonder everyone who calls in close air support and gets an A-10 gun run has the same reaction to the jaw-dropping power of the GAU.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kenny Kennemer
A NATO-led training exercise focused on anti-submarine warfare ASW just kicked off in the north Atlantic.
Naval forces from more than 10 nations, including the US, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Norway, and Iceland, will be out in force off the coast of Iceland to hone their skills in hunting down and destroying enemy submarines as part of Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.
Running from June 27 to July 6, the training will feature warships, submarines, and maritime patrol aircraft.
“The presence of NATO in the waters south of Iceland is a a sign of an increased focus on the North Atlantic and will strengthen the Alliance’s knowledge and experience of the area,” Arnor Sigurjonsson Director, Department of Security and Defense, Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, told Naval Today.
The US Navy is bringing in a Los Angeles-class fast attack sub, an Arleigh Burke-guided missile destroyer, one P-8A Poseidon aircraft, and two P-3C Orion aircraft, both of which are designed to hunt down subs and surface vessels from the air.
“We look forward to this training opportunity with our NATO allies and partners,” Capt. Roger Meyer, commander, Task Force 69, said in a statement. “While promoting international security and stability, Dynamic Mongoose will serve to fortify theater ASW capabilities, enhance interoperability, and strengthen alliances within the European theater.”
The exercise comes amid increasing tensions with Moscow, which has complained about NATO’s acceptance of Montenegro into the alliance and Norway’s recent decision to host more than 300 US Marines in its country for at least another year.
Any enlisted Navy sailor can tell you that their dress uniform wouldn’t be as famous today without one of its most iconic pieces — the historic neckerchief.
Reportedly, the neckerchief made its first appearance in the 16th century and was primarily worn as a sweat rag and to protect the sailor’s neck from rubbing raw against their stiff collared shirts.
In some cases, the 36-square-inch silk fabric could also be used as a battle dressing or tourniquet in a life saving situation.
The color black was picked to hide any dirt or residue that built up during wear.
In 1817, the Navy wanted each one of its sailors to tie their neckerchief the same way, so it introduce the square knot. The square knot was hand-picked because it was commonly used on ships to secure its cargo.
The knot was later added to the dress blue uniform to represent the hardworking Navy tradition, and it remains that way today.
How to tie a square knot:
During the inspection, each sailor is carefully examined by a senior at least twice a year. While under observation, the sailor must display a properly tied square knot which needs to hang at the bottom of the jumper’s V-neck opening, and the ends of the neckerchief must appear even as shown above.
Do you remember your first uniform inspection? Comment below.
Next month, as Hollywood and professional athletes gather in Los Angeles to celebrate the year in sports, U.S. Army Veteran and VA employee Danielle Green will be honored at the 2015 ESPYS with the Pat Tillman Award for Service.
“As a teammate and soldier, Pat believed we should always strive to be part of something bigger than ourselves while empowering those around us,” said Marie Tillman, president and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “Danielle has been unwavering in her aspiration to lift others suffering from the physical and mental injuries of war. In Pat’s name, we’re proud to continue the new tradition of the Tillman Award, honoring Danielle for her service as a voice and advocate for this generation of veterans.”
Green, who is now a supervisor readjustment counseling therapist at the South Vet Center located in South Bend, IN., said she was honored to receive the award and be a part of Tillman’s legacy of selfless service.
“It means so much,” she said. “You see so many negative stories revolving around suicide, PTSD and VA employees, but everyday my team and I work with Veterans who truly believe they are broken. We show them how much they have to offer, how they can heal and get them the help they need.”
Green has seen her share of adversity. In 2004, a little more than a year after leaving her job as a schoolteacher to enlist as a military police, she found herself on the rooftop of an Iraqi Police station in the center of Baghdad.
She recalls the heat and the uneasy feeling she had when the normally lively neighborhood turned quiet. Suddenly a coordinated RPG attack on the station from surrounding buildings left her bleeding out and in shock.
“I didn’t realize I was missing my left arm,” she said. “I just remember being angry at the fact that I was going to die in Iraq.”
She credits the quick response of her team and their proximity to the Green Zone to her survival. She believed her quiet prayers, asking for a second chance to live and tell her story, didn’t hurt either.
“I learned to really value life that day,” Green said. “You can be here today and gone tomorrow.”
In the course of a few days, she went from a hot rooftop in Iraq to Walter Reed Medical Center. For eight months the former Notre Dame Basketball standout worked with physicians, nurses and occupational/physical therapists to recover from her injuries. The southpaw’s loss of her dominant arm forced her to relearn daily tasks like writing, but through it all she continued to follow her dreams and found inspiration in those medical professionals around her. They never let her quit on herself, and while there was doubt and fear of what her life would be like after she was discharged from Walter Reed and the Army, she kept charting a path toward service.
After going back to school for her masters in counseling, and a short stint as an assistant athletic director at a college, Green found an opportunity to harness all of her experiences and assist fellow Veterans who were transitioning out of the military. By 2010, she had gone from being a patient to a catalyst for change for those seeking help at her local Vet Center.
“There was some doubt and self pity,” she said. “I’d sometime look down at my arm and wonder what the purpose of it all was … But now I realize the importance of what I can do for my peers. It’s challenging and rewarding, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The Pentagon’s oft-criticized missile defense program has scored a triumph, destroying a mock warhead over the Pacific Ocean with an interceptor that is key to protecting U.S. territory from a North Korean attack.
Vice Adm. Jim Syring, director of the Pentagon agency in charge of developing the missile defense system, called the test result “an incredible accomplishment” and a critical milestone for a program hampered by setbacks over the years.
“This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,” Syring said in a written statement announcing the test result.
Despite the success, the $244 million test did not confirm that under wartime conditions the U.S. could intercept an intercontinental-range missile fired by North Korea. Pyongyang is understood to be moving closer to the capability of putting a nuclear warhead on such an ICBM and could develop decoys sophisticated enough to trick an interceptor into missing the real warhead.
Syring’s agency sounded a note of caution.
“Initial indications are that the test met its primary objective, but program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test,” his statement said.
Philip E. Coyle, a former head of the Pentagon’s test and evaluation office and a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said the May 30 outcome was a significant success for a test that was three years in preparation, but he noted that it was only the second success in the last five intercept attempts since 2010.
“In several ways, this test was a $244 million-dollar baby step, a baby step that took three years,” Coyle said.
The previous intercept test, in June 2014, was successful, but the longer track record is spotty. Since the system was declared ready for potential combat use in 2004, only four of nine intercept attempts have been successful.
“This is part of a continuous learning curve,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, ahead of the current test. The Pentagon is still incorporating engineering upgrades to its missile interceptor, which has yet to be fully tested in realistic conditions.
North Korea says its nuclear and missile programs are a defense against perceived U.S. military threats. Its accelerating missile development has complicated Pentagon calculations, most recently by incorporating solid-fuel technology into its rockets. The step would mean even less launch warning time for the United States. Liquid fuel is less stable and rockets using it have to be fueled in the field, a process that takes longer and can be detected by satellites.
Underscoring its uninterrupted efforts, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile on May 29, 2017 that landed in Japan’s maritime economic zone.
In the May 30 U.S. test, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency launched an interceptor rocket from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The target was an intercontinental-range missile fired from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific.
According to the plan, a 5-foot-long “kill vehicle” released from atop the interceptor zeroed in on the ICBM-like target’s mock warhead outside Earth’s atmosphere and obliterated it by sheer force of impact, the Pentagon said. The “kill vehicle” carries no explosives, either in testing or in actual combat.
The target was a custom-made missile meant to simulate an ICBM, meaning it flew faster than missiles used in previous intercept tests, according to Christopher Johnson, the Missile Defense Agency’s spokesman. It was not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM, and details of its exact capabilities weren’t made public.
Officially known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the Pentagon likens the defensive tactic to hitting a bullet with a bullet. With congressional support, the Pentagon is increasing the number of deployed interceptors, based in California and Alaska, to 44 from the current total of 36 by the end of 2017.
While the May 30 test wasn’t designed with the expectation of an imminent North Korean missile threat, the military wants progress toward the stated goal of being able to shoot down a small number of ICBMs targeting the United States.
Laura Grego, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has criticized the missile defense program, called the interceptor an “advanced prototype,” meaning it is not fully matured technologically even if it has been deployed and theoretically available for combat since 2004. A successful test on May 30, she said, could demonstrate the Pentagon is on the right track with its latest technical fixes.
“Overall,” she wrote in an analysis prior to the test, the military “is not even close to demonstrating that the system works in a real-world setting.”
The interceptors are, in essence, the last line of U.S. defense against an attack by an intercontinental-range missile.
The Pentagon has other elements of missile defense that have shown to be more reliable, although they are designed to work against medium-range or shorter-range ballistic missiles. These include the Patriot missile, which numerous countries have purchased from the U.S., and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which the U.S. deployed this year to South Korea to defend against medium-range missiles from North Korea.