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It's a Kill Vehicle': Pentagon Completes Successful Ballistic Missile Interceptor Test

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"...it was a lethal intercept.”

HONOLULU (The Blaze/AP) -- The military shot down a short-range ballistic missile off Hawaii with a new, more sensitive interceptor missile.

The Missile Defense Agency says the USS Lake Erie detected and tracked the short-range missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai on Wednesday night.

The Pearl Harbor-based guided missile cruiser then fired the interceptor, which took out the missile. Watch the interceptor launch from multiple views in this footage:

The agency says the new interceptor has a two-color infrared seeker, which allows it to detect targets further away.

The agency says the test was the 22nd time its Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system, which is operated from ships, has successfully intercepted a target. The Aegis program has attempted intercepts 27 times.

Wired's Danger Room has more details about the interceptor and its successful test from its manufacturer Raytheon:

“The [interceptor] does not have a warhead. It’s a kill vehicle, and it maneuvers into the path of the threat, and the threat is destroyed by the kinetic energy of the impact,” Wes Kremer, vice president of Air and Missile Defense Systems for Raytheon, told Danger Room. “So there’s no warhead, it can’t be a near miss, and then it blows up; so it’s literally a skin-to-skin contact between the kill vehicle and the target.”

But an open question is whether interceptor, called the Standard Missile-3 Block 1B, could have made contact with the missile’s warhead. Skeptics of the Block 1B’s predecessor, the Block 1A, raised concerns several years ago that by striking the body of incoming missiles and not the warheads, the missiles might remain intact and continue on their way to impact. In other words, the interceptor could (potentially) blast a hole through the missile’s body so fast, the missile wouldn’t even notice. Either way, wherever the interceptor hit Wednesday’s test missile didn’t seem to matter. “We know precisely where it hit,” Kremer said “I can’t go into details other than to say it was a lethal intercept.”

With the recent success of this test, which Wired reports was a repeat of a failed test in September, Kremer said it is on track to "deploy this in time for 2015."

Wired also points out that the technology of this interceptor is good enough to take out medium-range missiles but not necessarily intercontinental ballistic missiles. It also is designed to hit missiles mid-course, not during take off or just before hitting their target.

Two more tests of this interceptor are planned for later this year.

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