Ballistic missile test-fired from California coastal base

An unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile was launched Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base to test the weapon's reliability and ensure an "effective nuclear deterrent", according to the U.S. Air Force. The 341st Missile Wing is one of three missile bases overseeing the country's intercontinental ballistic missile forces. The Air Force has made several upgrades to the Minuteman III, including modern targeting systems, since the missile's initial production run.

However, unfavorable weather or technical troubles could delay the missile test until later in the planned launch window.

Air Force Global Strike Command said data collected from test launches are used for "continuing force development evaluation".

"We have been working closely with the 576th Flight Test Squadron over the past 10 months to prepare for this mission".

"The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational capability of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States' ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of USA national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners", it added.

It was the second such launch in seven days from the Central California coastal base.

The U.S. has about 450 of the missiles and they are routinely tested.

Wednesday's test is the third ICBM launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base this year.

These past two tests - the previous test launch was held in the early morning of April 26 - occurred so close together, according to the Air Force, because last week's launch was rescheduled from November 2016 due to fires on VAFB.

The U.S. has sent warships to the region to deter that country from conducting such tests. Malmstrom Air Force Base is one of three bases in the US that house Minuteman III ICBMs.

"We would argue that, even if the Minuteman tests had been planned months in advance, there must be some flexibility in order not to exacerbate global crises, said Rick Wayman, director of programs at the Santa Barbara-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. The command typically schedules four launches a year".


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