The US Air Force has been conducting a series of strategic nuclear forces exercises in the Asia-Pacific region,which are being seen as a warning to a North Korean regime bent on acquiring more and more nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them on distant targets,especially the United States.At 12:02 am Pacific Daylight Savings Time this morning,the Air Force's Global Strike Command launched the second Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base,California in a week.The first missile was launched last Wednesday from the base northwest of Santa Barbara that is the home of the 30th Space Wing and commonly used for launching Pentagon spy satellites as well as ICBM tests.*
The Minuteman III,a 60 year-old system that has been upgraded for improved targeting and accuracy,is housed in silos at three GSC bases.Today's missile was randomly pulled from a silo at Malmstrom Air Force Base,Montana and reassembled at Vandenberg prior to launch.It was equipped with a single test re-entry vehicle with a telemetry package for operational testing along its course to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands,about 4200 miles from Vandenberg.The test is intended to demonstrate to the world that the land-based leg of the nuclear triad is a safe,reliable and effective deterrent force for the US and her allies.*
Colonel Chris Moss is commander of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg AFB,and as such is the launch decision authority.He noted that:
The tremendous teamwork between the 30th Space Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command is apparent each time we launch a Minuteman III missile.*
The first of the two ICBM tests from Vandenberg,on Wednesday 26 April 2017,was a combined team effort by Global Strike Command Airmen from 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren AFB,Wyoming;341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB,Montana;and 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offut AFB,Nebraska.The missile used in that test was launched with a command delivered from the Air Launch Control System on a US Navy E-6 Mercury jet.*
Besides the two missile tests,AF Global Strike Command provided two of its B-1B Lancer strategic nuclear bombers from their forward operating base,Andersen Air Force Base,Guam,for a series of exercises with the air forces of South Korea and Japan.The bombers were escorted by South Korean fighter jets and flew near the Korean peninsula.The Air Force declined to disclose just how close the drills got to North Korea;nor whether the B-1Bs were carrying any weapons.
For its part,North Korea complained that,during the course of the exercises,the US planes conducted a nuclear bomb-dropping drill against major objects.The reckless military provocation is pushing the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war,the official KCNA news agency added.*
Meanwhile,the US Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system,or THAAD,has reached initial operational capability in South Korea,US officials told Reuters;but it will take several more months to get fully operational.In other Asia-Pacific action,CIA director Mike Pompeo flew to South Korea for detailed security talks with his South Korean colleague,Lee Byung-ho,and a visit to Yeonpyeong Island,which was attacked by North Korea in 2010,even as the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group arrived in the Sea of Japan on Saturday 29 April for exercises with South Korea and Japan.The Navy,as a matter of policy,doesn't disclose whether its ships are carrying nuclear weapons or not,but its F/A-18 fighter jets are capable of carrying the B-61 intermediate yield nuclear weapon.