Washington: The United States is preparing to test an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) following recent missile tests by North Korea, according to officials.
The US military will conduct the test of the Minuteman III at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Wednesday in what will be the fourth such test this year, the 30th Space Wing says.
“The purpose of the ICBM test launch program is to validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system,” the Air Force Global Strike Command said a statement on Tuesday.
The missile is expected to land about 4,800 miles away in the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, formerly known as Kwajalein Missile Range which is located in the Marshall Islands.
“The Minuteman III remains a reliable system,” said Reif Kingston, director of disarmament and threat reduction policy for the ACA. “While DOD is moving forward with replacing the existing system, it has yet to make a compelling case as to why the Minuteman III force can’t be reduced and the missile life extended beyond 2030.”
According to Air Force Capt. Michele Rollins, a spokesperson for the strike command, four test-launches are scheduled per fiscal year, but the actual schedule is created several years beforehand so that it is not related to the recent developments.
However, “planning for this particular launch started a little over a year ago,” Rollins said. This comes after Pyongyang’s successful test of an ICBM on Friday and the previous July 3 launch of the “Hwansong-14” rocket.
On Saturday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the whole US mainland was now within the range of the newly-tested guided missile, an updated version of the Hwasong-14 ICBM that flew as far as 998 kilometers for some 47 minutes at a maximum altitude of 3,724.9 kilometers.
In response to the tests by Pyongyang, the US flew two B-1 bombers over South Korea on Saturday and also, along with Seoul, conducted a military exercise, using surface-to-surface missiles on Friday.