The Pacific Missile Range Facility in Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii, where the interceptor was fired from. Photo: AFP/US Navy

The US military has successfully tested a key missile defense system capable of knocking down incoming immediate-range missiles from countries such as North Korea, Reuters reported on December 11.

The Aegis Ashore system, which was used in the test, was fitted with a Standard Missile 3 Block IIA interceptor being developed in a joint venture between Raytheon, a major US defense contractor, and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

In the recent test, a US Air Force C-17 launched an intermediate-range missile from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii, which was intercepted.

In August, the Pentagon was given a mandate to pursue more options for defeating US-bound North Korean missiles by using radar, according to Reuters.

The SM-3 IIA, which is deployable on land as well as at sea, intercepted an advanced ballistic missile threat in its first live target test in early 2017.

The successful intercept was preceded by two non-target flight tests. Also in 2017, Japan decided to expand its ballistic missile defense system with US-made ground-based Aegis radar stations and interceptors in response to North Korean missiles.

Despite pressure on North Korea to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programs, there has been little to indicate it has given up its missile and rocket projects.

The SM-3 IIA is also going to be deployed in Romania and Poland where they would be able to intercept missiles fired from Russia.