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Pentagon tests previously banned cruise missile

The Hill logo The Hill 8/19/2019 Rebecca Kheel
the outside of a building: Pentagon tests previously banned cruise missile © Getty Images Pentagon tests previously banned cruise missile

The U.S. military conducted a flight test Sunday of a nonnuclear cruise missile that was previously banned under a treaty President Trump withdrew from this month.

"On Sunday, August 18, 2019 at 2:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, the Department of Defense conducted a flight test of a conventionally-configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California," the Pentagon said in a statement Monday.

"The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight," the statement added.

The Pentagon will use data and lessons from the test to "inform the Department of Defense's development of future intermediate-range capabilities," the statement concluded.

The United States officially exited the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on Aug. 2, after initiating the process to withdraw six months before.

The treaty, credited with helping end the Cold War, banned the United States and Russia from having nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

U.S. officials since the Obama administration have publicly accused Russia of violating the treaty by fielding a cruise missile dubbed the 9M729.

Moscow has denied violating the treaty, instead blaming the United States for its demise.

Though Trump's critics generally agree that Russia has been violating the INF Treaty, they fear the U.S. withdrawal will lead to a Cold War-style arms race.

A day after the U.S. withdrawal, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he hoped to soon base the previously banned missiles in Asia.

"Yes, I would like to," Esper told reporters traveling with him to Sydney when asked whether he was considering deploying ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in Asia.

"I would prefer months. I just don't have the latest state of play on timelines for either a cruise missile or long-range missile ... but these things tend to take longer than you expect," he added.


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