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US cancels another ICBM test to avoid provoking Russia

A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test, Oct. 29, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
April 01, 2022

The U.S. military canceled another missile test on Friday, citing tensions with Russia, Reuters first reported Friday.

Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek told Reuters the LGM-30G Minuteman III missile test was canceled for the same reason last month’s missile test was canceled. On March 2, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby announced that week’s missile test was canceled “to demonstrate that we have no intention in engaging in any actions that can be misunderstood or misconstrued.” The decision took place after Russia announced its nuclear weapons were placed on high alert.

Kirby insisted at the time that the decision was “not a step backwards in our readiness.” Similarly, Stefanek said Friday “The Air Force is confident in the readiness of the strategic forces of the United States.”

The Pentagon previously said the test would be delayed “a little bit,” not canceled entirely. Stefanek said the next Minuteman test is expected to take place late this year.

On Monday, Missile Defense Agency Director Navy Vice Adm. Jon Hill was asked during a press briefing if the Russia-Ukraine conflict and postponing tests to avoid miscalculations would impact overall weapons testing. Hill said delaying or changing testing schedules is “a normal part of doing this business,” adding “if we have to adjust, we’ll adjust.”

Tensions with Russia was also the reason the long-planned U.S. hypersonic missile test in June 2021 was canceled.

In October, sources familiar with the decision to cancel the hypersonic test said President Joe Biden ordered Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to cancel the test ahead of Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June. Officials worried the hypersonic test could’ve sent the wrong message or even thrown off the meeting altogether.

Officials at the time said that canceling the test was “not unusual at all for the sake of table-setting.”

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the Minuteman III missile has been in service since 1970.