US successfully tests long-range missile defense shield network

The US Defense Department said Friday it shot down a missile in a simulated attack designed to test a proposed shield against strikes by long-range ballistic missiles from nations such as Iran and North Korea. The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency used an interceptor missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to knock down a missile meant to simulate the speed and trajectory of a North Korean attack. It struck the target missile shortly after the target was launched from a location in Alaska, according to Cheryl Irwin, a Pentagon spokeswoman. The military argues the network is needed to protect the United States and its allies against growing threats from nations such as Iran and North Korea, but President-elect Barack Obama expressed skepticism about the capabilities of the system during his campaign, leading to speculation he may reduce the program's scope.