US Air Force Test Medium Range Ballistic Missile Over Pacific Ocean

The U.S. Air Force tests a medium range ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base over the Pacific Ocean, Thursday, December 12, the second such test of the country’s nuclear missile force in less than three months. The prototype missile was configured to be armed with a non-nuclear warhead. The Pentagon declined to disclose specifics beyond saying thew missile was launched from a “static launch stand” at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and landed in the open ocean.

The Defense Department said the ballistic missile flew more than 500 miles. The test comes amid growing uncertainty about the future of arms control. The last remaining treaty limitation on U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons — the New Start treaty of 2010 — is scheduled to expire in February 2021.

That treaty can be extended for as long as five years without requiring a renegotiation of its main terms. The Trump administration has indicated little interest in doing so.

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 kilometers to 4,000 kilometers (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.