A California ICBM test of an intercontinental ballistic missile – toting a payload of scientific instruments rather than a wartime missile nuclear head – was meant to capture the attention of nations that also like to crow about their so-called rocket capabilities, even if such missile tests sputter and miscarry. Yes North Korea, we’re talking about you.
Reports the Los Angeles Daily News on Feb. 25: “Like a giant pen stroke in the sky, an unarmed Minuteman 3 nuclear missile roared out of its underground bunker on the California coastline Thursday and soared over the Pacific, inscribing the signature of American power amid growing worry about North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons capable of reaching U.S. soil.”
The Minuteman missile traveled west at speeds up to 55K mph, soaring nearly 5,000 miles before it dumped itself into the waters near Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands, which lay 2,100 nautical miles southwest of Hawaii. Quite a journey – especially considering Minuteman 3 is a Cold War-era relic that has long exceeded its original 10-year lifespan.
“It is a signal to anyone who has nuclear weapons that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country, if necessary,” commented U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work. “We do it to demonstrate that these missiles – even though they’re old – they still remain the most effective, or one of the most effective, missiles in the world.”
The United States has at its disposal approximately 450 ICBM Minuteman missiles, housed at underground silo locations in Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. The U.S. and Russia control the vast majority of the world’s nuclear weapons. About once a year or so, the Department of Defense oversees the launch of such missiles, to ensure their integrity, keep training sharp, and of course to let everyone know that the U.S. still has a ton of missiles buried in its belly.
Adds the Daily News: “Aside from confirming technical soundness, Minuteman test launches are the U.S. military’s way of sharpening the message that forms the foundation of U.S. nuclear deterrence theory — that if potential attackers believe U.S. nuclear missiles and bombs are ready for war at all times, then no adversary would dare start a nuclear fight.”
North Korea has suffered a number of failed missile launches. In January, in defiance of UN sanctions, North Korea claimed to test launch a ballistic missile from a submarine. Despite North Korea’s heavily controlled state television airing footage of the launch, U.S. sources said the video was clearly forged.
President Barack Obama recently submitted a budget busting price hike in defense, calling for a nearly $2 billion increase in nuclear arms spending alone. According to NewsOxy, the president’s total $19 billion request “would allow the Pentagon and Energy Department to move toward a multiyear overhaul of the atomic arms infrastructure that is expected to cost $320 billion over a decade and up to 1 trillion dollars over 30 years.”