Mil­i­tary launches mis­sile from Van­den­berg

Test was to show U.S. can de­fend it­self, not a re­sponse to North Korea, of­fi­cials say.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Veron­ica Rocha veron­ica.rocha@la­times.com Twit­ter: Veron­i­caRochaLA

An un­armed in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile was launched from Van­den­berg Air Force Base early Wed­nes­day to test the weapon’s re­li­a­bil­ity to “de­fend against at­tacks on the United States and its al­lies,” the Air Force said.

The Min­ute­man III mis­sile was fired at 2:10 a.m. from the base north­west of Santa Bar­bara, ac­cord­ing to the Air Force Global Strike Com­mand. The mis­sile, equipped with a sin­gle test reen­try ve­hi­cle, trav­eled 4,200 miles to a test range near Kwa­jalein Atoll in the Mar­shall Is­lands.

The strike com­mand said the test was “not a re­sponse to re­cent North Korean ac­tions.” Rather the launch “demon­strates that the United States’ nu­clear en­ter­prise is safe, se­cure, ef­fec­tive” and can pro­tect against strikes, the com­mand said.

The test comes af­ter North Korea launched an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile Friday — the sec­ond in less than a month. The two-stage mis­sile crashed off the coast of Ja­pan’s north­ern­most is­land, Hokkaido. In­de­pen­dent de­fense an­a­lysts say such a mis­sile may be ca­pa­ble of reach­ing Cal­i­for­nia and other parts of the West Coast.

On Tues­day, Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said the U.S. gov­ern­ment would agree to a di­a­logue with North Korea if it re­lin­quishes its nu­clear pro­gram.

“We are try­ing to con­vey to the North Kore­ans: ‘We are not your en­emy, we are not your threat. But you are pre­sent­ing an un­ac­cept­able threat to us, and we have to re­spond,’ ” he said.

Wed­nes­day’s launch was con­ducted by Van­den­berg’s 30th Space Wing team, the 90th Mis­sile Wing at F.E. War­ren Air Force Base in Wy­oming and the 576th Flight Test Squadron, the Air Force said. The 90th Mis­sile Wing is one of three bases over­see­ing the coun­try’s in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile forces.

The test is the fourth ICBM launched from the base this year.

“Th­ese test launches re­quire the high­est de­gree of tech­ni­cal com­pe­tence and com­mit­ment at every level and pro­vide crit­i­cal data nec­es­sary to val­i­date the re­li­a­bil­ity, ac­cu­racy and per­for­mance of the ICBM force,” Col. Dave Kel­ley, 576th Flight Test Squadron com­man­der, said in a state­ment.

In Fe­bru­ary, a test mis­sile was launched from the base. That mis­sile was also equipped with a non­ex­plo­sive pay­load and trav­eled to the Mar­shall Is­lands.

An­other test was con­ducted by the Air Force Global Strike Com­mand’s team April 26. Air Force of­fi­cials said that launch was an op­er­a­tional test to show the coun­try’s nu­clear de­ter­rent ca­pa­bil­ity.

Days later, a third test mis­sile launched from the base. The un­armed Min­ute­man III mis­sile was launched just af­ter mid­night May 3 to test the weapon’s re­li­a­bil­ity and en­sure an “ef­fec­tive nu­clear de­ter­rent,” ac­cord­ing to the Air Force.

On May 30, the Mis­sile De­fense Agency con­ducted a flight test ex­er­cise of a ground-based in­ter­cep­tor that was also launched from the air base. The in­ter­cep­tor suc­cess­fully tar­geted and de­stroyed an un­armed in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile launched from the Mar­shall Is­lands.

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

MEM­BERS of an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile launch team pre­pare for a May 3 test at Van­den­berg Air Force Base. In an­other test Wed­nes­day, a mis­sile trav­eled 4,200 miles to a test range in the Mar­shall Is­lands.

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