Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Response Worries Seen Holding Up Minuteman ICBM Trial
The United States might have postponed a scheduled Minuteman 3 ICBM trial flight on three occasions this year over worries about possible responses from China and Russia, executive branch armaments regulation personnel said in remarks reported on Wednesday by the Washington Times (see GSN, March 1).
One such trial took place in April. The next test is now slated for Nov. 14, according to the Air Force Global Strike Command; it has been rescheduled from March 1, April 10 and May 16.
“The launch for GT 206 is scheduled for Nov. 14,” spokeswoman Michele Tasista said in reference to the trial. “This is the only test window remaining for us in 2012. We expect four test launch opportunities in 2013.”
In describing the formal cause of the repeated rescheduling of a follow-up launch, government sources have described a need to change out parts in a broken internal system for destroying the weapon as necessary. "The test-unique component, which is being replaced, is part of a larger flight termination system, which provides airmen the ability to monitor and safely terminate the missile in flight," according to the Global Strike Command.
Still, that issue does not fully explain the holdups, according to government security insiders.
“These things can’t just be fired off because (Air Force Strike Command) decides to,” a government source stated. “They are carefully planned and controlled by treaties.”
High-level government personnel have worried another country with an atomic arsenal might misinterpret the exercise as a nuclear first strike, the Times reported. The scheduled Nov. 14 trial has a high chance of facing another postponement, according to the newspaper.
The contention that reasons for the holdups go beyond technical matters prompted an expression of skepticism from the Air Force nuclear command.
“The only policy issue we are aware of pertains to range safety, and that is why we are replacing a test-unique instrumentation component on the missile,” Tasista stated (Bill Gertz, Washington Times, June 27).
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