The U.S. Air Force conducted an unarmed nuclear-capable ICBM test launch Tuesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the Air Force Global Strike Command said in a statement. The Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, equipped with a test reentry vehicle, was launched at 12:49 a.m. PT and traveled 4,200 miles to a test range near the Marshall Islands. The missile launch was “to demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent,” according to the statement. “This test launch is part of routine and periodic activities intended to demonstrate that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, reliable and effective to deter twenty-first century threats and reassure our allies,” it continued. “Such tests have occurred more than 300 times before.”
According to Steven Wilson, a spokesman for AF Global Strike Command, the launch was originally scheduled for August 4, but it was delayed over concerns about China’s response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting Taiwan. CNN confirmed that a US official told CNN at the time that it was a “prudent step.” The US regularly tests its intercontinental weapon system to verify its accuracy and reliability. “Make no mistake – our nuclear triad is the cornerstone of the national security of our country and of our allies around the globe,” Col. Chris Cruise, 576th Flight Test Squadron Commander, said in a statement. “This scheduled test launch is demonstrative of how our nation’s ICBM fleet illustrates our readiness and reliability of the weapon system. It is also a great platform to show the skill sets and expertise of our strategic weapons maintenance personnel and of our missile crews who maintain an unwavering vigilance to defend the homeland.”
The Minuteman III is the only land-based leg of the US nuclear triad. The other two legs of the triad are nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bombers and submarines launching ballistic missiles.