The U.S. Air Force is set to conduct a second test launch of a Minuteman III nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday morning, one week after a similar successful test took place and in the wake of a series of defiant actions by the rogue North Korean regime, including a failed ballistic missile launch on Saturday. The launch will occur between 12:01 and 6:01 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara, according to the LA Times.
“The purpose of the ICBM test launch program is to validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system,” Air Force Global Strike Command said in a statement.
And just like during last week's test, the 576th Flight Test Squadron will be responsible for collecting data of the missile and ensuring safety, the Air Force said.
To preempt speculation that the launches are in retaliation to the recent provocations by North korea, Col. John Moss, Vandenberg’s 30th Space Wing commander, said in a statement that Vandenberg Air Force Base and the 576th Flight Test Squadron have been preparing for the operational test launch for the last 10 months.
"Team V is once again ready to work with Air Force Global Strike Command to successfully launch another Minuteman III missile," Moss said. "These Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities. We are proud of our long history in partnering with the men and women of the 576th Flight Test Squadron to execute these missions for the nation."
As covered here previously, a similar test was conducted by the Air Force Global Strike Command’s team on April 26 from the base. Air Force officials said the test launch was an operational test to show the country’s nuclear deterrent capability. That Minuteman III was als olaunched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and traveled roughly 4,200 miles before splashing down in the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.
Regardless of the justification, questions will arise why hold two consecutive tests so close after each other if the first one was deemed successful and especially after what Col Deane Konowicz, the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron commander, said one week ago that the test will send a message to enemies of the US.
"The Simulated Electronic Launch of a Minuteman III ICBM is a signal to the American people, our allies, and our adversaries that our ICBM capability is safe, secure, lethal and ready. It highlights the ground and airborne command and control elements of an electrically-isolated ICBM, demonstrating that our deployed ICBMs will respond to critical launch commands.”
And, like last week, the apparent hypocrisy of the escalated sabre-rattling is not lost on all, because as The LA Times reports, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, criticized the timing and the Air Force’s motives for both launches. The organization has said the launches come amid heightened tension between the U.S. and North Korea.
“This is a very dangerous game we are playing,” the peace organization’s president David Krieger said in the statement.
Wednesday’s test will be the third ICBM launched from the base this year. The first test missile launch occurred in February.
Meanwhile, with the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier battle group arriving off the Korean peninsula, and the nuclear-capable submarine USS Michigan docked in the South Korean port of Busan, North Korea defiantly claimed it will continue nuclear weapons tests and bolster its nuclear force “to the maximum” in a “consecutive and successive way at any moment.”
So to all those readers in the vicinity of Santa Barbara, you may want to stay up tonight. To everyone else, here is the clip Vanderberg released one week ago as a clear deterrent to the Kim regime. And just in case, tomorrow the air force base will release a recording of tonight's launch.