Air Force launches interceptor to shoot down simulated warhead

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - In a launch that may be seen from the Los Angeles area, U.S. Air Force officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Tuesday launched a ground-base interceptor to shoot down a simulated incoming warhead -- a drill designed to prepare for any North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile strike. 

Officials at Vandenberg in eastern Santa Barbara County said the interceptor was launched shortly after 1 p.m. Pacific time.

The interceptor's launch was expected to be visible from the Los Angeles area, but not so for any collision between the missile and the simulated warhead over the Pacific.

The test was planned in response to what are regarded as provocation by North Korea, which, as of last week, has  carried out three missile tests in three weeks. The most recent North Korean test involved a short-range ballistic missile that traveled about 250 miles before splashing down in Japan's ``exclusive economic zone'' near the coast.

The American interceptor has an uneven track record, having succeeded nine times out of 17 attempts against missiles in test since 1999, although the most recent test -- in June 2014 --- was a success.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to deploy a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching American territory. The North Koreans have not yet tested an intercontinental ballistic missile but are believed to be planning to.


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