The US military has set its latest Minuteman III missile launch to “showcase” its nuclear capability
The Pentagon has announced the latest test of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, saying the ICBM will be launched to demonstrate the capability of the US nuclear arsenal.
The launch will take place on Wednesday at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in Southern California, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said on Tuesday in a press briefing. He noted that the silo-launched missile will be tested without a warhead attached.
“This launch showcases the redundancy and reliability of our strategic-deterrence system while sending a visible message of assurance to allies,” Ryder told reporters.
The test comes less than two months after the US Air Force Global Strike Command launched a Minuteman III from the same base. Like the last launch, Wednesday’s test is described as prescheduled and “routine.” However, it comes amid rising geopolitical tensions as the Russia-Ukraine conflict drags on, the Israel-Hamas war escalates, and US-China relations continue to deteriorate.
Washington canceled or delayed at least two ICBM tests last year, citing concerns about potential “misunderstandings” with Russia and China. An August 2022 launch was delayed because it would have come at the same time that Chinese forces were holding drills off the coast of Taiwan. Four months earlier, the Pentagon said it had canceled a Minuteman III test because “it would be irresponsible” to disregard the risks of escalating the Ukraine crisis at a time when Russian nuclear forces were on high alert.
The Minuteman III was first deployed in 1970 and was originally meant to be in service for only about ten years, but it has instead been modernized. Its replacement, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), is scheduled to be available for use in 2029, but Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told US lawmakers earlier this year that it will be a “challenge” to have the new ICBM ready in time.
Ryder also updated reporters on the recent spate of drone and rocket attacks on US bases in the Middle East, which the Pentagon has blamed on Iranian-backed militias. He said there had been 27 attacks, including 16 in Iraq and 11 in Syria. He said six of the attacks occurred after the US launched airstrikes against two facilities in eastern Syria allegedly used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps last week. None of the attacks since that time have injured US troops or damaged infrastructure at US bases.
“We know that these groups are funded, trained, sponsored by the Iranian government, and we hold the Iranian government responsible for that,” Ryder said.