The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - Con­tact Bill Gertz on Twit­ter at @Bil­lGertz.

The suc­cess­ful test of a long-range anti-bal­lis­tic mis­sile in­ter­cep­tor against a tar­get mis­sile on Tues­day was a step for­ward in bol­ster­ing the lim­ited U.S. strate­gic de­fenses against the grow­ing threat of mis­siles from North Korea and Iran. The kill ve­hi­cle or last stage of the Ground-based Mid­course De­fense (GMD), as the long-range in­ter­cep­tors are called, struck a sim­u­lated in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile (ICBM) war­head in space over the north­ern Pa­cific near Alaska.

“The in­ter­cept of a com­plex, threat-rep­re­sen­ta­tive ICBM tar­get is an in­cred­i­ble ac­com­plish­ment for the GMD sys­tem and a crit­i­cal

mile­stone for this pro­gram,” said Mis­sile De­fense Agency Di­rec­tor Vice Adm. Jim Syring. “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.”

How­ever, mil­i­tary ex­perts say cur­rent GMD mis­sile de­fense sys­tem, made up of satel­lite sen­sors, tar­get­ing sen­sors and 44 GMDs in Cal­i­for­nia and Alaska, re­mains vul­ner­a­ble to a new and emerg­ing threat: high-speed ma­neu­ver­ing strike ve­hi­cles.

The en­tire U.S. mis­sile de­fense sys­tem re­lies on tar­get­ing war­heads that travel in pre­dictable flight paths. Once those war­heads be­gin ma­neu­ver­ing, U.S. de­fenses cur­rently are in­ca­pable of hit­ting them un­less the mis­siles can be at­tacked shortly af­ter launch.

For diplo­matic rea­sons, suc­ces­sive ad­min­is­tra­tions have avoided all men­tion of us­ing cur­rent mis­sile de­fenses against mis­siles fired from China and Rus­sia. The rea­son is both na­tions’ mis­sile ar­se­nals could over­whelm the lim­ited de­fenses.

Pres­i­dent Trump, how­ever, has vowed to de­velop a state-of-the-art mis­sile de­fense sys­tem

and that has raised hopes of ex­pand­ing the cur­rent sys­tems to counter Rus­sian and Chi­nese mis­siles, some­thing both na­tions ap­par­ently are an­tic­i­pat­ing.

China has con­ducted six tests of a ma­neu­ver­ing high-speed strike ve­hi­cle, known as DF-ZF, ca­pa­ble of de­feat­ing U.S. mis­sile de­fenses. Rus­sia is also work­ing on hy­per­sonic mis­siles — those with speeds up to 7,000 miles per hour and the abil­ity to ma­neu­ver to avoid in­ter­cep­tors.

Con­cerned about the gap, Congress re­cently re­quired the Mis­sile De­fense Agency to set up a spe­cial of­fice ded­i­cated to coun­ter­ing hy­per­sonic mis­sile threats.

“North Korea and Iran are in­creas­ing their mis­sile tech­nol­ogy at an alarm­ing rate even as Rus­sia and China con­tinue de­vel­op­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties de­signed to ex­ploit the gaps and seams in our mis­sile de­fense ar­chi­tec­ture,” said Rep. Trent Franks, Ari­zona Repub­li­can and one of Congress’ most vo­cal sup­port­ers of mis­sile de­fense, who spon­sored the leg­is­la­tion re­quir­ing a hy­per­sonic mis­sile de­fense pro­gram.

“Now is the time to in­vest in mis­sile de­fense,” he said in re­sponse to the re­cent test.

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