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Missile defense test nears

A ground-based interceptor missile lifts off.
U.S. Missile Defense Agency

A key test of the much-criticized U.S. national missile defense system is planned for later this month, officials said June 11.

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, which is designed to protect the United States against long-range ballistic missiles fired from North Korea or Iran, will try to intercept a target missile on June 22, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said during a missile defense hearing of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee. (Update: The test is scheduled to occur between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Pacific time.)

During the test, an interceptor missile will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., said Navy Vice Adm. James Syring, the director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. The target will take off from the Army's Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific, Murkowski said.

A successful test is widely considered long overdue. GMD has failed to intercept its target in its last three attempts, fueling claims in some quarters that the complex system is unreliable.

The United States currently has 30 GMD interceptors deployed in Alaska and California to defend against long-range missiles. Plans call for increasing that figure to 44 interceptors by the end of fiscal year 2017.

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