A double-edged achievement
The US military reportedly launched a ground-based interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Tuesday that successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile target fired from the Reagan Test Site in the Marshall Islands.
Given that previous ground-based antimissile tests conducted by the United States were all targeted at slower-moving medium-range ballistic missiles, the successful interception of a more complex and longer-range ICBM target marks a new and huge accomplishment for the US' anti-missile system.
The technology behind the Ground-based Midcourse Defense is extremely complex, and the system uses globally deployed sensors to detect and track ballistic missile threats. The interception is a move that is compared to hitting a bullet with another bullet, though at far higher speeds. Undoubtedly, the interception of the ICBM demonstrates the remarkable progress the US has made in technologies such as the development of hypersonic engines, intelligent control, precision fast tracking and energy release management.
Ground-based interceptors that can destroy ICBMs are viewed as a strategic technology that will change the prevailing military armament rules and the established pattern of strategic deterrence, and thus all the world's major military powers have been striving to make a breakthrough in this area. Once the US' intercontinental missiles interception technology becomes mature, it will likely be a game changer exerting inestimable influence on the established military landscape, given that antimissile technologies are by no means purely for defensive purposes. There are no explicit boundaries between defensive and offensive weapons, and once needed, any strategic defensive weapons can be converted into strategic offensive weapons.
The technologies used for intercepting ICBMs may soon be directly applied to such advanced weapons as hypersonic missiles, stealth spy planes and strategic early-warning aircraft. If there is no restraint from relevant countries, its competitive use may topple established weapons development concepts and spark a new arms race.