(News Desk) – The United States Air Force has test-launched a nuclear-capable Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) without prior notice to the public.
The unarmed missile, capable of flying over 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles), was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, early Wednesday, the US Air Force Global Strike Command said in a statement, noting that the test was successful.
“A reliable test launch occurs when a test missile launches, completes its flight path within a designated safety corridor, the equipment functions properly, sensor data is collected, and the test reentry vehicle impacts where targeted,” the statement read.
“Though the reentry vehicle reached its intended target, the test and analysis data is not releasable to the public,” it added.
While there were no details available about the whereabouts of the target, there is a high chance that it was fired at an area near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands which the US military usually uses for such operations.
USAF officials told reporters that the test had been scheduled three to five years ago and was the first of its kind in 2018.
In an unusual twist, however, American news outlets said neither the websites for Vandenberg AFB nor the Air Force Global Strike Command notified the public of the test before the missile’s liftoff.
The is while in early February the Vandenberg Public Affairs personnel sent out a notification to the locals of an upcoming test, advising them to steer clear from the area. USAF canceled that test later on to correct what they called an error.
The test-launch came ahead of a much-anticipated meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The US has long objected to Pyongyang’s tests of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, demanding North Korean officials to dismantle both programs.
Meanwhile, the United States has placed hundreds of Minuteman III missiles in silos across rural America and relies on the Cold War era weapons as the sole land-based ICBM it has in service.
The Pentagon has hired weapons manufacturers Boeing and Northrop Grumman to develop a new missile—currently known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD)— which will allow the Air Force to retire all of its Minuteman III fleet.
“The Minuteman III is 45 years old. It is time to upgrade,” Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said in a statement August last year, after the two companies were awarded $349 million and $328 million respectively to continue the project over the course of the three-year contract.
The Air Force has estimated that the project would cost US taxpayers at least $62 billion. However, the Pentagon’s office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) says the costs would surpass $85 billion.