A BALLISTIC missile launched from Scotland was shot down in space by a US warship just off the coast.
The missile was launched from the isle of Benbecula – flying as high as 120 miles – before being blasted from the sky by a warship moored in Hebridean waters.
The USS Ross – a destroyer – intercepted the missile using state-of-the-art technology in an international exercise testing the ability of navies to protect fleets from anti-shipping attacks.
The missile that was intercepted can destroy ships by flying into space and then coming down almost vertically on to the deck of its target. These can be even harder to defend against than traditional sea-skimming anti-ship missiles.
The drill – the first of its kind in European waters – took place in October over three weeks, covering 5.7m square miles of water, with 26 missiles fired.
British and American ships participated in the exercise alongside warships from Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain.
The exercise over Scotland took place at the end of October – using a Terrier Orion missile system – which is also used by NASA for space operations.
The Terrier Orion rocket launched from Benbecula produces around 19,000 pounds of thrust in the first four seconds of motor burn – reaching altitudes of 120 miles – higher than the Northern Lights and just 70 miles shy of the space shuttle orbit.
The interception technology used to shoot the missile from the sky is currently owned by the US Navy, but it is hoped by Royal Navy insiders that it will one day be attached to British ships.
And defence sources say the technology could be used to stop attacks from Russia, Iran, China or North Korea.
A Royal Navy spokesman said: “We were keeping a lookout for anti-shipping missiles.
“We were practising coordination while the Americans were concentrating on looking into the sky to shoot it down, we were looking at the risk of sea-skimming missiles.”
Vice Admiral James Foggo, Commander of the US 6th Fleet, said that the exercise had shown “that with communication, collaboration and commitment, nations can come together and flawlessly defend against a complex threat.”