Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, US – The Air Force tested a prototype of a non-nuclear ballistic missile that was previously banned by an arms control treaty from which President Donald Trump withdrew earlier this year, the Pentagon announced on Thursday.
“On Thursday, December 12, 2019, at 8:30 am Pacific Time, the US Air Force, in partnership with the Strategic Capabilities Office, conducted a flight test of a prototype conventionally-configured ground-launched ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California,” Pentagon Spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Carver said in a statement, The Hill reported.
The missile was launched from a “static” stand and landed in the ocean “after more than 500 kilometers of flight”, Carver stated.
“Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” he added.
Such a missile was prohibited under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which banned the United States and Russia from having nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
Trump withdrew from the 1987 treaty, which was credited with helping end the Cold War, in August over alleged Russian “violations”. US officials dating back the Barack Obama administration accused Russia of violating the treaty by deploying a banned missile. Though Trump’s critics generally agree Russia was violating the INF Treaty, they fear the US withdrawal will lead to a Cold War-style arms race.
Thursday’s test was the second since Trump’s withdrawal of a missile that would have been banned by the treaty. In mid-August, the Pentagon conducted a flight test of a nonnuclear cruise missile that was fired from a mobile launcher and flew more than 500 kilometers. After the August test, Russia accused the United States of “escalating military tensions”.