US looks to test ground-launched cruise missile in August

Clay Curtis
March 16, 2019

The United States military is all set to test a ground-launched missile after the Trump administration ended the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty or the INF Treaty last month.

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 senior USA defense officials cautioned that the United States was looking at only conventional variants of the new missiles slated for testing later this year. The official also stated that the USA is also looking to test an intermediate-range ballistic missile in November and that both the missiles would not be nuclear, but conventional.

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 USA actions "when we entered the phase of harsh disagreements with the Americans on the INF".

On February 1, US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the suspension of Washington's obligations under the INF starting February 2.

One official said the intermediate-range ballistic missile could be deployed on Guam, a US territory close enough to China or Russian Federation to be considered a threat.

Reuters cited the unidentified Pentagon official as saying that the United States is also looking to test an intermediate-range ballistic missile in November.

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Signed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the INF Treaty was widely viewed as a breakthrough in arms control.

"The Russians have been violating the INF Treaty for years but, instead of focusing world opinion against the Russians, the Trump administration made a decision to withdraw from the treaty", Adam Smith, the Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said recently.

The INF Treaty required the parties to dismantle the ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles of ranges between 500 to 5,500 miles. Putin signed a decree suspending Moscow's compliance with the Treaty on March 4.

Arms control advocates and Democrats in Congress have questioned the wisdom of leaving the INF treaty, while accepting US 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 formal deployment", the senior official said. "You have already heard about the results of the tests we have held, but we adhered to certain restrictions imposed on us by the INF Treaty", the president said. The missile is unlikely to be deployed sooner than in five years, the news agency said.

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. Washington on many occasions had accused Russian Federation of violating the accord, but Moscow vehemently dismissed all accusations and, in its turn, expressed grievances over Washington's non-compliance.

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