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VAFB Launch

An unarmed Minuteman III missile flies over the coast after launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base late Tuesday night as part of a test of the U.S. nuclear weapons system.

An unarmed Minuteman III missile was fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base late Tuesday night, Feb. 5, as part of a test of the U.S. nuclear weapons system.

The intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, was blasted from a silo on the northern portion of the base at 11:01 p.m. The missile’s launch and journey created an extended deep rumble that resonated throughout the Lompoc Valley and beyond.

Representatives with Air Force Global Strike Command did not reveal whether the test was deemed successful.

The ICBM test launches, according to the Air Force, are held regularly and are not related to any specific real-world events.

Representatives of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, however, raised concerns about the test being held just days after President Donald Trump’s administration announced Feb. 1 that the U.S. would be withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty with Russia.

That treaty has been a cornerstone of arms control since the Cold War, and the U.S. planned exit has raised fears among some of a new arms race.

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, which has a stated mission to “educate, advocate and inspire action for a just and peaceful world, free of nuclear weapons,” is among those sharing those worries.

“It’s time for Americans to wake up,” David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, said ahead of Tuesday’s missile test. “These tests don’t make us safer; they make the world more dangerous. Rather than continuing to test nuclear weapons, we should be leading negotiations to rid the world of these weapons of indiscriminate mass annihilation.”

Rick Wayman, the deputy director of the foundation, particularly took issue with the timing after the INF treaty announcement.

“Just four days ago, the Trump administration suspended the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, one of the most important arms control treaties ever achieved between the United States and Russia,” he said. “The very same week, both of these countries now appear set to test launch intercontinental ballistic missiles. While ICBMs would not have violated the INF Treaty, it is alarming that this extraordinary tension is coming to a head with major nuclear-capable missile tests just hours or days apart.”

According to the Air Force, the operational tests of Minuteman III missiles provide valuable data to planners and holistically test the system, procedures and airmen.

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Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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