WASHINGTON, July 31 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Missile Defense Agency said on Friday that it successfully tested a sea-based missile defense system on Thursday night.
A target missile was fired from Hawaii about 11:40 p.m. eastern time Thursday (0340 GMT Friday) and was tracked by Navy ships hundreds of kilometers away, the agency said in a statement.
An Aegis-class U.S. naval ship then fired an interceptor missile, which struck the target about 160 km above the earth.
The process -- from launch to shoot-down -- took less than five minutes.
The United States plans to use the sea-based system on Aegis-class ships to protect against incoming short-to-medium-range missiles fired from hostile countries.
The test was the 19th successful test in 23 attempts of the Aegis sea-based missile defense system since 2002.
Another part of the missile defense protection -- ground-based midcourse defense -- is designed to strike at long-range missiles.
Over the past seven years, the U.S. military has spent billions of U.S. dollars on the missile defense program, with each test costing about 85 million dollars.