WASHINGTON: The Air Force on Wednesday launched its second test of a nuclear-capable long-range missile in a week, according to the Air Force Global Strike Command.
Launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile traveled 4,200 miles to a test range near the Marshall Islands.
The US regularly tests its intercontinental weapon system to verify its accuracy and reliability — with launches scheduled long in advance, according to defense officials.
Though considered by military officials to be fairly routine, the missile tests that took place Wednesday and on April 26 are notable in that they occurred amid rising tensions and military flexing over North Korea’s nuclear program.
The Minuteman III is traditionally known as the only land-based leg to the US nuclear triad.
The other two parts of the triad are the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile and nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bombers.
First deployed in the 1960s as part of the US nuclear deterrent program, the Minuteman system is supposed to ensure that missiles can be launched quickly and at any time.
Missiles are dispersed in silos and connected to an underground launch control where crews are on standby around the clock.
The United States currently has 450 Minutemen III missiles in silos at Warren AFB, Malmstrom AFB in Montana and Minot AFB in North Dakota, according to the Air Force.