DOD tests intermediate-range ground-launched ballistic missile

By Justin Doubleday / December 12, 2019 at 2:14 PM

The Defense Department today launched an intermediate-range, ground-launched ballistic missile beyond 500 kilometers, marking the second such test since the United States exited the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty earlier this year.

The Air Force partnered with the Strategic Capabilities Office to test the "prototype conventionally-configured ground-launched ballistic missile" at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, according to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Carver.

"The test missile exited its static launch stand and terminated in the open ocean after more than 500 kilometers of flight," Carver wrote in a statement. "Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense's development of future intermediate-range capabilities."

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to questions about what type of ballistic missile was involved in the test.

President Trump pulled the U.S. government out of the INF Treaty earlier this year after both his administration and the Obama administration accused Russia of violating the pact over the past several years. The 1987 treaty banned the deployment of ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

Shortly after the United States formally exited the treaty in August, the Pentagon test-launched a conventionally-configured, intermediate-range, ground-launched cruise missile.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are allowing the Pentagon to proceed with research and development programs that seek to field new missiles capable of INF ranges. The Army is moving forward with multiple programs to field new ground-launched weapons with ranges beyond 500 kilometers as early as fiscal year 2023.

But the compromise FY-20 defense policy bill -- passed by the House yesterday and awaiting consideration in the Senate -- bars DOD from procuring or deploying such missiles in FY-20. It asks DOD to provide a report by Jan. 31, 2020, on its plans for developing, acquiring and deploying intermediate-range missiles.