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US Air Force launches land-based ballistic missile from California base

The US on Thursday tested a new ballistic missile from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California, a Pentagon spokesman said.

“The US Air Force, in partnership with the Strategic Capabilities Office, conducted a flight test of a prototype conventionally-configured ground-launched ballistic missile,” Lt. Col. Robert Carver told The Post in an email from the scene.

“The test missile exited its static launch stand and terminated in the open ocean 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,” he added.

The space launch Western Range at Vandenburg had warned boaters to remain off the waters off the northern section of the base earlier this week, according to the Noozhawk of Santa Barbara.

The North Base area included in the mariners’ notice is near underground silos used for intercontinental ballistic missile tests, the news outlet reported.

On Wednesday, Vandenburg spokeswoman Robin Ghormley was tight-lipped about the planned activity.

“Vandenberg regularly is used by DOD and different partners to evaluate different systems,” she told Noozhawk.

Last month, the Defense News reported that the looming test would be the first since the US withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty earlier this year.

“As part of the US integrated response to Russia’s violations of the INF Treaty, the United States announced it would commence treaty-compliant research and development of conventional, ground-launched missile concepts in late 2017,” Carver said.

“Following the US suspension of its obligations under INF in February 2019, DOD began conceptual design activities on ground-launched cruise missile and ballistic missile systems, activities which would have been inconsistent with our obligation under the treaty,” he added.

In March, Pentagon officials said they planned to test an intermediate-range ballistic missile toward the end of the year.

During the annual Defense News Conference in September, Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for policy for nuclear and missile defense, confirmed that the Pentagon was on track for that test.

“I do believe it is still the plan to conduct a ballistic missile test before the end of the year,” he said at the time, according to the Defense News, which reported that the missile has a potential range of roughly 1,800-2,500 miles.

Pentagon officials have speculated that any deployment of such a missile — potentially to Guam — would not be likely for at least five years, the outlet reported.

The 1987 INF Treaty was a pact with the former Soviet Union that banned ground-launched nuclear and conventional ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,100 miles.

But the US and its NATO allies have for years declared Russia in violation of the agreement. The Kremlin has denied those allegations.

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