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VIDEO: US tests first cruise missile since Russian/US INF Treaty expired

On Aug. 18, at 2:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, the Defense Department conducted a flight test of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, Calif. The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight. Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform DOD's development of future intermediate-range capabilities. (Scott Howe/Department of Defense)
August 19, 2019

The United States tested a ground-based cruise missile on Sunday afternoon, the Pentagon confirmed Monday.

“On Sunday, August 18, 2019 at 2:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, the Department of Defense conducted a flight test of a conventionally-configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California,” a Pentagon press release confirmed after CNN first reported it Monday.

The Pentagon also released video of the launch, as seen below:

“The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight. Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” the press release added.

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“The Department of Defense conducted a flight test of a conventionally-configured ground-launched cruise missile off the US West Coast Sunday. We are currently evaluating the results of the test,” Lt. Col. Carla Gleason told CNN earlier on Monday.

Officials told CNN that the missile was not capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and was instead designed to carry a conventional payload.

The missile may have been one that was banned under the now-expired 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, as CNN noted.

In an article on the treaty, NATO explained, “Under the INF Treaty, the United States and Russia cannot possess, produce or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 to 5,500 kilometres, or possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”

“A shorter-range missile means a ground-launched ballistic or cruise missile having a range capability between 500 and 1,000 kilometres. The term ‘cruise missile’ means an unmanned, self-propelled vehicle that sustains flight through the use of aerodynamic lift over most of its flight path,” NATO explained further of the treaty.

The U.S. announced its withdrawal from the INF Treaty in February, citing Russia’s continued violations of the treaty and failure to return to compliance despite warnings given.

The decision took effect on Aug. 2, and was marked by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s remarks that supported the U.S. for its withdrawal and criticized Russia for not fulfilling its obligations, according to a NATO statement.

“We regret that Russia showed no willingness and took no steps to comply with its international obligations,” Stoltenberg said, adding that “no international agreement is effective if it is only respected by one side. Russia bears the sole responsibility for the demise of the Treaty.”

Russia has not yet made public remarks on the U.S. cruise missile test, but vowed on Sunday for a second time that it would not deploy new missiles if the U.S. did not.