WASHINGTON – The U.S. Defense Department announced on Monday the test of a medium-range ground-launched cruise missile, just weeks after tearing up the Cold War-era pact with Russia that eliminated such nuclear-capable weapons.
The missile was launched on Sunday from the U.S. Navy-controlled San Nicolas Island off the coast of Los Angeles.
“The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 km of flight,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities.”
While the missile was described as “conventionally configured,” meaning not nuclear-equipped, the launch was a sign of Washington beefing up its nuclear war-fighting capabilities in the wake of the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on Aug. 2.
The INF had banned all land-based missiles, conventional and nuclear, that could travel between 500 and 5,500 km (310 and 3,400 miles), in an effort to abolish a class of nuclear arms deployed across Europe by the United States and the then-Soviet Union.
Many fear the end of the INF, which Washington accused Moscow of having violated in recent years, will lead to a new and dangerous nuclear arms race.
On August 2, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the U.S., no longer bound by the INF, had already begun work to develop “mobile, conventional, ground-launched cruise and ballistic missile systems.”
“Now that we have withdrawn, the Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles as a prudent response to Russia’s actions,” Esper said.