There has been a flurry of activity in the missile realm, with the Asia-Pacific region set to bristle even more with these dangerous weapons.
US nuclear forces demonstrate readiness
USAF Global Strike Command launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) equipped with a test re-entry vehicle from Vandenberg Space Force Base on 11 August.
The launch was conducted ‘to demonstrate the readiness of US nuclear forces’ and ‘verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system’, the USAF noted in a statement.
A Hi Fidelity Joint Test Assembly re-entry vehicle detonated conventional explosives before landing in the Pacific Ocean near Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent is to replace Minuteman III with an IOC of 2029. Until full capability is achieved in the mid-2030s, the USAF is committed to ensuring Minuteman III remains a viable deterrent.
While the latest ICBM test is not a response to specific international events, having been scheduled years in advance, Shephard has reported increase missile silo-building activity over recent months in Western China.
For example, the USAF reported on 12 August that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has probably begun construction of an ICBM silo site near Ordos in Inner Mongolia.
Images taken by a European Space Agency Sentinel-2 satellite between 16 May and 9 August 2021 reveal a construction footprint similar to those found at known PLA ICBM silo construction sites in Jilantai, Guazhou (Yumen) and Hami.
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Welcome to Episode 37 of the third series of The Weekly Defence Podcast. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and more.
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