US test-launches unarmed ICBM from California amid North Korea tensions
The US Air Force said the test would show the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system
The US Air Force successfully launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile from California, the fourth such test this year.
The 30th Space Wing said the Minuteman 3 missile launched at 2:10 am Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Los Angeles.
An Air Force statement said the test would show the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system.
Minuteman missiles are regularly tested with launches from Vandenberg that send unarmed re-entry vehicles 6,800 kilometres across the Pacific to a target area at Kwajalein Atoll.
However, the latest US launches come amid tensions with North Korea as that nation develops its own ICBMs.
Flight data on North Korea’s most recent test, conducted Friday, showed that a broad part of the mainland United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago, is now in range of Pyongyang’s weapons, according to analysts.
In response, the US Air Force flew two B-1 bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday in a show of force. The US also said it conducted a successful test of a missile defence system located in Alaska.
Previous Minuteman ICBM launches this year were conducted in February, April and May. That month, the Air Force also conducted a test of a missile interceptor launched from Vandenberg. The interceptor destroyed a mock warhead over the Pacific.
Decades after the cold war, and frequently forgotten by a public preoccupied with the threat of terrorism, the United States still fields hundreds of Minuteman III ICBMs, dotted in silos across rural America.
Over the next 20 years, the US Air Force will switch out the entirety of its Minuteman III fleet with a new missile known currently known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD).
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse