Washington: The unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has been launched from a US Air Force base in California on Wednesday to ensure its “effectiveness, readiness and accuracy”.
The Minuteman III missile test launch will also be used to demonstrate America’s “national nuclear capabilities”, according to the US military.
Its launch took place at 12.03am local time and was carried out from North Vandenberg Air Force Base, according to the 30th Space Wing unit that conducted the test.
An ICBM is a long-range guided ballistic missile with a minimum range of 5,500 kilometres, and top speed of around 14,500mph. They were first deployed by the Soviet Union in 1958, following by the US in 1959 and China some 20 years later.
And now it is thought US and North Korea which are around 8,000km apart could use the weapons to carry out a deadly strike on each other.
The missiles can be launched for multiple platforms from submarines to heavy trucks – and one ICBM fired from Moscow could reach New York in less than 30 minutes.
However the US’s Minuteman III ICBM – a msystem that has been in service for 60 years – carries just one warhead.
Commander of the unit, Colonel John Moss, said: “These Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities.”
The launch comes amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, as a US carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson approaches North Korean waters.
But a spokeswoman for the Air Force Global Strike Command says the test was planned in advance – and is not connected with the current situation in North Korea.