Days after North Korea fired a rocket into the Sea of Japan, the U.S. Air Force is planning to test launch an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The unarmed Minuteman III missile will be launched between 12:01 and 6:01 a.m. from the base, about 12 miles northwest of Lompoc, according to Vandenberg’s 30th Space Wing team.
The Air Force Global Strike Command’s missile launch is designed to test the weapon system’s effectiveness, accuracy and readiness, the Air Force said.
The test comes after North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile on 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 the missile may be capable of reaching California and other parts of the West Coast.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, said on Monday that the Vandenberg test launch “must be viewed as a direct response to the North Korean launch.” The organization has called for diplomacy, not military provocations.
The test would be the fourth ICBM launched from the Santa Barbara County base this year.
In February, a test missile was launched in February 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 on 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 on May 3 from the base to test the weapon’s reliability and ensure an “effective nuclear deterrent,” according to the U.S. 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.