The Pentagon announced plans for a test in just a few days that would involve shooting down an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) — similar to what North Korea has launched.
U.S. military personnel plan to launch a custom-made missile from the Marshall Islands and aim to shoot it down in space by firing an interceptor missile from a base in California.
The missile is meant to simulate an ICBM, meaning it will fly faster than missiles used in previous intercept tests, according to Christopher Johnson, spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency. The target is not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM.
This is the first time the U.S. military has attempted to test a ground-based interceptor against an "intercontinental class target," The Missile Defense Agency confirmed to Fox News.
The interceptor test, scheduled for Tuesday, comes after two recent successful North Korean ballistic missile launches. One of the medium-range ballistic missiles flew more than 1,200 miles into space, before successfully reentering the Earth’s atmosphere and splashing down just 60 miles from Russia.
North Koren leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to field a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching American territory. He has yet to test an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, but Pentagon officials believe he is speeding in that direction. North Korea's deputy U.N. envoy said the country will continue to strengthen its nuclear program to counter U.S. aggression.
Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said at a Senate hearing on Tuesday that if left unchecked, North Korea will develop a nuclear device that has intercontinental capabilities.
"If left on its current trajectory, the regime will ultimately succeed in fielding a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening the United States homeland," Stewart said.
The American interceptor has a spotty track record, succeeding in nine of 17 attempts since 1999. The most recent test, in June 2014, was a success, but that followed three straight failures. The system has evolved from the multibillion-dollar effort triggered by President Ronald Reagan's 1983 push for a "Star Wars" solution to ballistic missile threats during the Cold War — when the Soviet Union was the only major worry.
Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson, Dan Gallo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.