U.S. plans to begin long-banned missile test this year

16 March, 2019, 11:39 | Author: Wade Massey
  • David B. Gleason

Once it expires, Washington and Moscow will be free to test, produce and deploy the intermediate-range missiles that both countries have agreed to ban for more than three decades.

In August, the Pentagon intends to test a cruise missile with a range of about 1,000 km, capable of flying at a low altitude.

The U.S. cruise missile is likely to be flight-tested in August, one official said, adding that it might be ready for deployment within 18 months.

The testing, production and deployment of missiles with those ranges is prohibited by the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated Moscow's position on the INF, explaining that Russia was forced to suspend its participation in the Treaty in response to the U.S. actions "when we entered the phase of harsh disagreements with the Americans on the INF".

Last month, the United States said it would withdraw from the INF treaty in six months unless Moscow ends what Washington says are violations of the 1987 pact.

"It is the USA and - not Russian Federation - that violated the provisions of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty".

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Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said Wednesday the Pentagon has not yet established a military requirement for a ground-launched cruise or ballistic missile of intermediate range. Tension over the deployment of those missiles fueled tension with the Soviet Union that ultimately led to the conclusion of the INF Treaty.

Arms control advocates and Democrats in Congress have questioned the wisdom of leaving the INF treaty, while accepting USA allegations that Russian Federation is violating it by deploying a cruise missile that can target American allies in Europe.

"We haven't engaged any of our allies about forward deployment", the USA defense official said.

Hodges did not elaborate on how the treaty could be replaced but noted that in any case, "transparency and a clear protocol on compliance with observers" should be a bottom line of the issue of arms control. If the test works in November, the Army would develop, procure and roll out the system, according to the senior defense official, who predicted that the process would take no less than five years.

German Economy and Energy Minister Peter Altmaier said, in turn, that he does not rule out a new arms race in the event of the termination of the agreement.

Russian Federation has repeatedly denied the allegations that the missile violates the treaty, pointing out that American missile defence systems deployed in Europe can be re-purposed for offensive use and therefore are themselves violating the accord.

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