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Friday, 26 February 2016 05:30

US to test-fire new ballistic missile from California

US to test-fire new ballistic missile from California
The United States is set to test-fire its second intercontinental ballistic missile in a week in a show of military prowess against rivals, reports say.

The planned blastoff overnight on Thursday or early Friday of unarmed Minuteman III from a silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is meant to demonstrate the ability of American nuclear arms, according to Reuters.

The strategic missile will be headed toward a target area near Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands of the South Pacific.

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the tests, conducted at least 15 times since January 2011, send a message to strategic competitors like Russia, China and North Korea that the United States has an effective nuclear arsenal.

"That’s exactly why we do this," Work told reporters.

"We and the Russians and the Chinese routinely do test shots to prove that the operational missiles that we have are reliable. And that is a signal ... that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country if necessary," he added.

Demonstrating the reliability of the nuclear force has taken on additional importance recently because the aging US arsenal is near the end of its useful life and a spate of scandals in the nuclear force two years ago raised readiness questions.

The Defense Department has poured millions of dollars into improving conditions for troops responsible for staffing and maintaining the nuclear systems. The US administration also is putting more focus on upgrading the weapons.

President Barack Obama’s final defense budget unveiled this month calls for a $1.8 billion hike in nuclear arms spending to overhaul the country's aging nuclear bombers, missiles, submarines and other systems.

The president's $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 a trillion dollars over 30 years.

MG

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