The U.S. military launched a new ground-based missile yesterday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California that landed in the Pacific Ocean. The missile had previously been banned under a Reagan-era treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but this wasn’t the first time that once-banned missiles have been tested. Back in August, the U.S. launched a new cruise missile that had also been banned under the treaty.
Video released by the U.S. military shows the launch yesterday, which includes a ground-based missile with a range of over 500 kilometres. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Treaty had banned ground-based missiles with a range between 500 kilometres and 5000 kilometres, strategically useful for the U.S. because they can be stationed in places like Eastern Europe and pointed at Russia.
The U.S. first announced in February that it would be withdrawing from the INF Treaty, first signed in 1987, ostensibly because Russia was already violating the treaty.
“Russia has jeopardised the United States’ security interests. And we can no longer be restricted by the treaty while Russia shamelessly violates it,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a press conference on February 1, 2019.
Another criticism of the INF Treaty was that China was not a party to its restrictions. The Chinese government warned back in August that new missile tests by the U.S. would likely trigger a new arms race.
The new missile began development in February and was first launched within 9 months, something that the Air Force is celebrating because the missile acquisition process typically takes 24 months.
Much of the focus in U.S. missile development has been on the Korean peninsula, and the American military has been staging its own tests in a seemingly coincidental tit-for-tat with North Korea, at least timing-wise. But yesterday’s test was likely for Russia’s benefit.
As the Washington Post points out, the last remaining nuclear weapons treaty between the U.S. and Russia, the New START Treaty, which was signed in 2010, is set to expire in February of 2021 and the Trump regime has shown no signs of wanting to renew it. But even if that treaty is renewed, the disintegration of the INF Treaty already makes the world less safe.
From the Post:
The Pentagon declined to reveal the maximum range of the missile tested. Last spring, when U.S. officials disclosed the testing plan, they said it would be roughly 3,000 kilometres to 4,000 kilometres (1,860 miles to 2,480 miles). That is sufficient to reach potential targets in parts of China from a base on Guam, for example. The Pentagon has made no basing decisions and has suggested that it will take at least a few years before such a missile would be ready for deployment.
But the U.S. military insists that the new missile makes Americans safer.
“The Western Range plays an integral role in testing new capabilities with our mission partners by providing the infrastructure, personnel and range assets needed to carry out efficient missile testing from conception to evaluation,” Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander, said in a statement posted online.
“The National Defence Strategy provides very clear direction to restore our competitive edge in the reemergence of great power competition, and we owe it to our nation to rapidly evolve and develop our capacity to defend. Our Airmen should be extremely proud of their contributions to their country today.”