It's like shooting a bullet out of the sky with another bullet.
The Pentagon just pulled off an extraordinary feat: it shot a dummy nuclear missile out of the sky, using another missile.
On October 26, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency launched a fake medium-range nuclear missile from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii. Moments later, the destroyer USS John Finn fired a specialized "interceptor" called the SM-3 Block IIA — a U.S.-Japanese missile designed to intercept enemy missiles.
Threading the Needle
The SM-3 can launch from land or sea, and was designed to intercept short- and medium-range ballistic missiles — very much like the ones in Russia and North Korea's stockpiles.
According to manufacturer Raytheon, the SM-3 interceptor is designed to slam into the target at a force of a "10-ton truck traveling 600 mph." It doesn't explode upon impact — it simply rams the enemy missile at ultra-high speeds to destroy it.
Don't Press The Red Button
It's the second successful demonstration of the SM-3 after two failed attempts in June 2017 and January 2018, according to Defense News. The first was a spectacular mission failure when a sailor accidentally caused the SM-3 missile to self-destruct mid-flight.
A recently released video shows the SM-3 colliding with the dummy missile in mid-air:
Shooting Bullets With Bullets
It's a spectacular feat that essentially amounts to hitting a high-velocity target with another even faster missile — think of it as shooting a bullet out of the sky with another bullet.
Will it save us from nuclear armageddon? Impossible to tell at this early stage. But the enemy is bound to be paying attention as well, meeting U.S. advancements in missile technology with their own.
READ MORE: After consecutive failures, watch US Navy intercept test missile with SM-3 weapon [Defense News]
More on anti-missile technology: Russia Is Building an AI-Powered Missile That Can Think for Itself