A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Air Force photo via Reuters
The Air Force on Tuesday launched a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile in a routine test that had been delayed to avoid escalating tensions with Russia and Beijing over Ukraine and Taiwan.
The missile blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara at 12:49 a.m. and flew toward a target near Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands more than 4,000 miles away.
“These test launches demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent,” said Col. Bryan Titus, Space Launch Delta 30 vice commander.
The Defense Department said about 300 such tests had occurred before and it was not the result of any specific global event.
In April, the planned, routine test was canceled to lower nuclear tensions with Russia during the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The Minuteman III, made by Boeing, is a key part of the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal. The missile has a range of 6,000-plus miles and can travel at a speed of 15,000 miles per hour.
Some 400 missiles are dispersed in hardened underground silos across the Great Plains. Each is armed with a nuclear warhead that is dozens of times more powerful than the bombs used on Japan in World War II. They can be launched in minutes in the event of a war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in February that his nation’s nuclear forces should be put on high alert, raising fears that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to nuclear war. But U.S. officials have said they have seen no reason so far to change Washington’s nuclear alert levels.
Reuters and City News Service contributed to this article.