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On Tuesday, Chinese military news site said China’s People’s Liberation Army had launched two missiles – a DF-26 and a DF-16 during a military exercise, though the exact date was not given. Also on Tuesday, the US Air Force Global Strike Command said it had conducted a test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.
China’s DF-26 missile is capable of delivering nuclear warheads a distance of around 2,500 miles, according to the US Federation of American Scientists.
According to reports, this would enable the weapon to strike the US western Pacific territory of Guam.
The other missile China launched – the DF-16 – is more short range.
According to MissileThreat.org, it can launch a nuclear warhead up to 1,000kg a distance of between 800 and 1000km.
It is reported this missile is designed to hit targets in Japan, where US military bases operate.
Liu Yang, a Chinese commander involved in the tests, said: “We are in a highly alert state for combat, to ensure our actions are prompt and precise.”
Regarding the US tests on Tuesday, US Colonel Omar Colbert said: “The fight test program demonstrates one part of the operations capability of the ICBM weapon system.
“The Minuteman III is 50 years old, and continued test launches are essential in ensuring its reliability until the 2030s when the Ground Base Strategic Deterrent is fully in place.
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“Most importantly, this visible message of national security serves to assure our allies and dissuade potential aggressors.”
The US missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The Minuteman III missile was equipped with three re-entry test vehicles which travelled around 4,200 miles before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean’s Marshall Islands.
According to Military.com, the Minuteman III is capable of a 6,000-mile range and an altitude of around 700 miles.
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It is thought the US’ current ICBM force has around 450 of the missiles at various locations.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in June the US has 5,800 nuclear warheads, second only to Russia with 6,375.
Intercontinental ballistic missiles work by using rocket boosters to get them into space – potentially much higher than the orbit of the International Space Station.
Once in space, the missile will increase its speed before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
Once back inside the Earth’s atmosphere, the missile’s warheads will separate and fall back down to Earth, hitting targets potentially thousands of miles from the initial launch site.
Despite the US and China both announcing ICBM tests at around the same time, the US military appeared to deny the launches were linked.
It said in a statement: “The launch calendars are built three to five years in advance, and planning for each individual launch begins six months to a year prior to launch.
“This launch is not related to any events in the world at this time.”
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