by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) May 21, 2013
The United States will carry out on Tuesday an intercontinental ballistic missile test it had delayed last month to avoid stoking tensions with North Korea, the Air Force announced.
A Minuteman 3 missile -- without its nuclear warhead -- is to launch between 3:01 am and 9:01 am local time (1001 and 1601 GMT) from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base toward the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands -- about 4,300 miles (7,000 kilometers) across the Pacific.
"These tests provide us the opportunity to demonstrate the readiness of the ICBM force," said Colonel Richard Pagliuco, commander of the 576th Flight Test Squadron, in a statement.
"Every test provides valuable data regarding the accuracy and reliability of the weapon system."
The test had been scheduled for mid-April but, amid fears that weeks of angry rhetoric could erupt into conflict on the Korean peninsula, the Pentagon announced a delay due to concerns it "might be misconstrued by some as suggesting that we were intending to exacerbate the current crisis with North Korea."
At that time, Pyongyang had deployed two medium-range Musudan missiles to its east coast, threatening strikes, including with nuclear warheads.
US intelligence said the weapons were removed from their launch pads in early May.
Some of the soldiers participating in US test come from the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, where 17 officers recently lost their certification to control ICBMs after a poor performance review.
The US has some 450 Minuteman 3 missiles, stored in silos on three bases including Minot, Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, and Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
The missile has been in service since the early 1970s and the Air Force plans to continue upgrading them through 2030.
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