The U.S. Air Force test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in the South Pacific after it traveled more than 4,000 miles from the California base where it was launched early Wednesday.
The nuclear-capable Minuteman missile was unarmed when it launched at 12:03 a.m. Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 130 miles away from Los Angeles, Fox News reported.
This test is particularly notable in that it occurred amid increasing tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program.
But despite the rising tensions about North Korea, defense officials say the test was in the works for a long time.
“If we had canceled the launch, that would be a story too,” one official told Fox News after being asked about the timing of the test.
The U.S. Air Force has 450 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles in underground silos located at Warren AFB in Wyoming, Malmstrom AFB in Montana, and Minot AFB in North Dakota, according to the Air Force.
A senior military official said that number will be reduced to 400 over the next few years.
The mission’s goal was to test the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system, Air Force officials said.
It specifically tested the Air Force’s ability to launch the intercontinental ballistic missile from controls in an aircraft, CNN reported.
“Today’s test launch used an intercontinental ballistic missile pulled randomly from a silo on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, which was then transported and reassembled at Vandenberg, and launched by crew members,” the Air Force said in a statement.