Photo provided by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) shows the launch of the U.S. military's land-based Aegis missile defense testing system, that later intercepted an intermediate range ballistic missile, from the Pacific Missile Range Facility o
Photo provided by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) shows the launch of the U.S. military's land-based Aegis missile defense testing system, that later intercepted an intermediate range ballistic missile, from the Pacific Missile Range Facility o

PENTAGON - U.S. Navy sailors and the Missile Defense Agency have successfully shot down a ballistic missile in a live fire test from the Pacific state of Hawaii.

Tuesday's direct hit marked the second consecutive intercept of an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) using an Aegis Ashore-launched Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor.

The intercepted missile was air-launched over the ocean by a U.S. Air Force C-17 thousands of kilometers southwest of the Aegis Ashore test site in Kauai, Hawaii.

Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves congratulated all military, civilians and contractors involved in the test and stressed the weapon system's defensive nature.

"This system is designed to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies, and friends from a real and growing ballistic missile threat," he said.

Tuesday's success followed another successful intercept in October. Prior to that, the U.S. had two consecutive intercept failures: one caused by a rocket motor misfiring, and another due to an input error by a sailor in July.

The missile defense system tested this week could be used in the Western Pacific region.

However, it would not be the weapon used to protect the continental United States against potential intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that North Korea is working to develop.

The United States uses ground-based interceptors located in Fort Greely, Alaska and California to protect the United States from such ICBMs.