The United States conducted a successful missile defense test that intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii early Wednesday morning, according to a statement from the US Missile Defense Agency.
The Standard Missile-6, built by major US defense contracter Raytheon, intercepted the missile target at sea in its final seconds of flight after being fired from the USS John Paul Jones.
The test comes amid heightened tensions between North Korea and the US. Earlier this week, an intermediate-range missile, identified by the North Koreans as a Hwasong-12, was fired over Japan.
A US official, however, told CNN the test had been planned for a long time and before North Korea's latest provocation.
The agency's director said the test was "a key milestone."
"We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis BMD ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase," MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in the statement. "We will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves."
In another statement, Raytheon's SM-6 senior program director, Mike Campisi, said that the US government requested this technology earlier this year. It normally takes one to two years to create, but Raytheon said in the statement that it took them seven months.
"Earlier this year, our customer requested an enhanced capability to deal with a sophisticated medium-range ballistic missile threat," he said in a statement "We did all this -- the analysis, coding and testing -- in seven months; a process that normally takes one to two years."