Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) launches from the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald. (File photo)
The US military
has blamed human error for a botched ballistic missile intercept test in late June, an embarrassing failure amid an ongoing row with North Korea over its missile program.
The June 22 test in the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai failed after a sailor on board the USS John Paul Jones, the US Navy’s missile defense test ship, pressed the wrong button on the Aegis Combat System and caused a RIM-161 Standard Missile (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor to self-destruct mid-air, Defense News
reported Monday, citing an investigation by the US Missile Defense Agency.
Apparently, the sailor, a tactical datalink controller tasked with maintaining encrypted data exchanges between ships and aircraft, had registered the incoming ballistic missile as a “friendly” rocket, the report stated.
“Though the review is still in process, the SM-3 IIA interceptor and Aegis Combat System have been eliminated as the potential root cause” of the failure, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, the director of MDA.
“We are conducting an extensive review as part of our standard engineering and test processes, and it would be inappropriate to comment further until we complete the investigation,” he added.
This was the fourth overall test and the second ship launch of the SM-3 IIA system, jointly developed by Japan and the US to allegedly counter missile threats rising from North Korea.
The US, along with South Korea and Japan, have been wary of the North’s progress in developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
A US Navy warship test-launches a RIM-161 Standard Missile (SM-3), jointly developed with Japan to shoot down North Korean missiles. (File photo)
North Korea has threatened to attack all three countries in case it faces American aggression.
Besides the SM-3 system, the US has equipped Tokyo and Seoul, Pyongyang’s two regional adversaries, with Patriot and the Terminal High Altitude Defense System (THAAD) missiles defenses.
Earlier this month, the US and South Korea fired surface-to-surface missiles in reaction to North Korea’s successful test-launch of what Washington insists was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
During the test, US and South Korean forces conducted simultaneous launches from the US Army Tactical Missile System and South Korea’s Hyunmoo Missile II system.
The US Army said in a statement that the drills showed both the US and South Korea’s military capability to “engage the full array of time critical targets under all weather conditions.”
Unfretted by the constant threats, however, North Korea says it will not give up on its missile technology and nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea.