A newly resigned missile interceptor system designed to protect the United States from a North Korean nuclear strike has not "performed up to expectations" in tests, according to the defense industry news site Breaking Defense and will have to be pushed back by at least two years, leaving the United States relying on the outdated and unreliable missile defense system currently in place to stop any intercontinental ballistic missiles fired by North Korea at the U.S. mainland.
The current system, known as the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle or EKV, has been tested 18 times in the past 20 years and has successfully shot down an incoming missile in only 10 of those tests Breaking Defense reports. The success rate is only 56 percent — well below what would be expected in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States by North Korea. The upgraded system was due to be completed in 2023, but now will not be ready until 2025 at the earliest.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency revealed the delay in the new missile interceptor program in its 2020 budget request, released on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg News. The MDA said that the delay was due to "technical difficulties" with the interceptor system — but did not disclose exactly what those "difficulties" were in the new missile interceptor warhead that forms a key part of the $34 billion U.S. missile defense system.
Both the existing and planned upgraded systems are launched from a rocket known as a Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI), Breaking Defense explained. In the event that an incoming North Korean ICBM is detected, the system launches a GBI through the upper atmosphere and into space, where the "kill vehicle" — that is, the missile armed with a warhead — detaches from the booster rocket and launches itself at the incoming ICBM. If the system works, the "kill vehicle" strikes the ICBM and blows up, destroying the threat before it reenters the atmosphere.
The MDA asked for an additional $412.4 million in the 2020 fiscal year to continue research into the redesigned missile interceptor, according to Bloomberg.
On July 4, 2017, North Korea test-launched its most sophisticated ICBM to date, as The Inquisitr reported, a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead, or multiple warheads, as far as Los Angeles, California. North Korea test-fired a second ICBM later that same year.
At the time, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned that he was capable of launching an "unimaginable strike" against the United States, as The Mirror newspaper reported.
While the rhetoric emanating from North Korea has largely subsided as Trump and Kim have held two face-to-face summit meetings in the past year, North Korea is now believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to be continuing development of new ICBMs capable of reaching the U.S. with a nuclear payload, according to the news agency Reuters.
At the same time, in his proposed 2020 budget released on Monday, Trump calls for a 10 percent cut to the Missile Defense Agency budget, according to Reuters.