WASHINGTON — The Pentagon conducted a flight test of a conventional ground-launched cruise missile off the coast of California in the first step toward development of intermediate range missiles.
The Sunday test would have been banned under the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty which Washington withdrew from earlier this month.
The Pentagon “conducted a flight test of a conventionally-configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California. 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 Pentagon said Monday in a statement.
The INF treaty limited the development of ground-based missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The U.S. left the treaty after accusing Russia of violating its provisions.
“It’s been true now for two administrations, that Russia has been the one not in compliance with the treaty, not the United States,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in July. “We have held up our treaty obligations. And we’ve tried to work with them over the years to get them back into compliance, but it’s been to no good end.”
Esper hinted then that the U.S. would move quickly to resume development and testing of intermediate range missiles — not just for use in Europe, the traditional basing area, but also for leverage against China.
The Pentagon has focused on the mobile launch system’s initial aspects, which were not as restricted under the now defunct treaty. Pentagon officials have said that a new ground-launched missile could be ready for deployment within 18 months, with the initial projectile a variation of a current air- or sea-launched cruise missile like a Tomahawk and recalibrated for a ground-based launcher.
The Army has been working on a next-generation artillery weapon dubbed the Precision Strike Missile with a range of 499 kilometers.
Video of the test launch is available via the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service: https://www.dvidshub.net/video/703577/dod-conducts-ground-launched-cruise-missile-test