Tonight the U.S. Air Force will test launch an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile California, its fourth such test in 2017. The 30th Space Wing says the missile was to be launched between 12:01 a.m. and 6:01 a.m. Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, located 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
In a statement, Vandenberg base said the test would show the "effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy" of the weapon system.
Col. Michael Hough, 30th Space Wing commander, is the launch decision authority. "Team V is postured to work with Air Force Global Strike Command to test launch the Minuteman III missile," said Hough. "Our long history in partnering with the men and women of the 576th Flight Test Squadron shows that the Western Range stands ready and able to create a safe launch environment."
The 576th Flight Test Squadron will be responsible for installed tracking, telemetry, and command destruct systems on the missile.
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While Minuteman missiles are regularly tested with launches from Vandenberg that send unarmed re-entry vehicles 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) across the Pacific to a target area at Kwajalein Atoll, the latest U.S. launches come amid tensions with North Korea as that nation develops its own ICBMs.
According to military analysts, who analyzed North Korea's latest, 2nd in one month ICBM test, a broad part of the mainland United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago, is now in range of Pyongyang’s weapons. In response to last Friday's launch, the U.S. Air Force flew two B-1 bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday in a show of force. The U.S. also said it conducted a successful test of a missile defense system located in Alaska.
Speaking to repoters, on Tuesday afternoon Rex Tillerson said that the US is not seeking regime change in North Korea, adding " we are not your enemy", although he conceded that the US is seeking to apply "peaceful pressure" on the Kim regime. He also clarified that the US does not blame China for the situation in North Korea, but wants it to use its economic leverage on Pyongyang. From Reuters:
- U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE TILLERSON SAYS U.S. IS SEEKING TO APPLY "PEACEFUL PRESSURE" ON NORTH KOREA, SAYS OPTIONS ARE LIMITED
- U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE TILLERSON SAYS U.S. DOES NOT BLAME CHINA FOR SITUATION IN NORTH KOREA, BUT WANTS IT TO USE ECONOMIC INFLUENCE ON PYONGYANG
- TILLERSON SAYS U.S. DOES NOT SEEK REGIME CHANGE IN NORTH KOREA, "WE ARE NOT YOUR ENEMY"
- TILLERSON SAYS WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A DIALOGUE WITH NORTH KOREA AT SOME POINT
- TILLERSON SAYS U.S. AT PIVOT POINT IN RELATIONSHIP WITH CHINA, LOOKING AT HOW TO DEFINE RELATIONSHIP IN FUTURE
Previous Minuteman ICBM launches this year were conducted in February, April and May. That month, the Air Force also conducted a test of a missile interceptor launched from Vandenberg which destroyed a mock warhead over the Pacific.