Air Force to test ICBM Wednesday amid North Korea tensions
The Air Force will test launch a Minuteman III, the country's nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile, from California on Wednesday.
The scheduled launch from Vandenberg Air Force base is meant to demonstrate U.S. nuclear capabilities, the Air Force said, and comes as tensions are flaring over North Korea's recent missile tests.
However, a spokeswoman for Air Force Global Strike Command, which is overseeing the test, said the launch was planned about a year in advance and had no connection to the provocations by Kim Jong Un's regime. The last Minuteman III test was in February, and they happen about four times a year."These Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities," Col. John Moss, the 30th Space Wing commander who will order the launch, said in a statement.
The land-based Minuteman III can be launched from silos inside the United States. It forms the "backbone of the nuclear deterrence triad," according to Boeing, the defense contractor that makes the missiles.
Despite the Air Force's comments, the launch is likely to be seen as a statement to the North Koreans as they appear to test U.S. resolve to stop their nuclear program, which could soon result in missiles capable of striking the West Coast.
The Trump administration recently announced the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group would steam to the Korean peninsula as a show of force, and a U.S. submarine equipped with cruise missiles has also deployed to the area.