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US nuclear forces demonstrate readiness

16th August 2021 - 11:48 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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A USAF Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III ICBM launches during an operational test on 11 August 2021. (Photo: US Space Force/Michael Peterson)

Unarmed Minuteman III was launched on 11 August; meanwhile, China expands its ICBM silo-building.

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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