The US military has announced that it will conduct a test of its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to showcase the country’s nuclear capability. The launch is scheduled to take place on Wednesday at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in Southern California, according to Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder.
Ryder emphasized that this test is intended to demonstrate the redundancy and reliability of the US strategic-deterrence system, while also sending a visible message of assurance to allies. It is worth noting that the missile will be launched without a warhead attached.
The upcoming test comes just two months after the US Air Force Global Strike Command carried out a similar launch from the same base. Like the previous launch, this test is described as prescheduled and routine. However, it occurs at a time of increased geopolitical tension as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues, the war between Israel and Hamas escalates, and US-China relations deteriorate.
Last year, Washington canceled or postponed at least two ICBM tests due to concerns about potential misunderstandings with Russia and China. For instance, an August 2022 launch was delayed because it coincided with Chinese military drills off the coast of Taiwan. Additionally, the Pentagon canceled a Minuteman III test earlier that year due to the risks of exacerbating the Ukraine crisis while Russian nuclear forces were on high alert.
The Minuteman III, originally deployed in 1970 with an expected service life of about 10 years, has undergone modernization efforts to prolong its operational capability. Its successor, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), is scheduled to be ready for use in 2029. However, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has acknowledged that meeting this deadline will present a significant challenge.
In addition to the ICBM test, General Ryder provided an update on recent drone and rocket attacks targeting US bases in the Middle East. The Pentagon has attributed these attacks to Iranian-backed militias and reported a total of 27 incidents, with 16 occurring in Iraq and 11 in Syria. Six of these attacks occurred after the US conducted airstrikes against two facilities in eastern Syria that were allegedly used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Fortunately, there have been no casualties or infrastructure damage resulting from these attacks.
General Ryder reiterated the US government’s stance, holding the Iranian government accountable for supporting and sponsoring these militias. He emphasized that the groups responsible for the attacks are funded, trained, and sponsored by Iran.
As the US carries out this missile test and grapples with regional security challenges, it aims to reassure its allies of its nuclear capability and commitment to strategic deterrence. The test serves as a tangible demonstration of the US military’s ongoing efforts to maintain readiness and ensure the reliability of its nuclear arsenal.