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US Space Force conducts first ICBM launch after Moscow warned of threat of renewed arms race (PHOTOS)

US Space Force conducts first ICBM launch after Moscow warned of threat of renewed arms race (PHOTOS)
The newly-created US Space Force has test-fired a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time as Russia blasted it for “lowering the bar” on using nuclear weapons.

The unarmed land-based missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California shortly after midnight on Wednesday. It was the first such development test since the facility became part of the US Space Force, which was established as an independent military branch in late December. The US previously test-fired a missile of this type in October.

The Minuteman missiles are the key component of the US' land-based nuclear arsenal. The launch was crucial to the work on further “testing and evaluation of the ICBM program, and many space and range programs to come,” 30th Operations Group commander Colonel Kris Barcomb said.

Last August, the US unilaterally left the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) with Russia, which banned all land-based missiles with a range up to 5,500km (3,420 miles) and their launchers. Moscow, which also stopped following the treaty after the US abandoned it, heavily criticized Washington's move. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the discarding of the key arms control agreement will trigger “an unrestrained arms race.”

Just two weeks after scrapping the INF Treaty, the US test-fired a cruise missile that would have been prohibited by it. Russia pointed out at the time that the test revealed that the Pentagon had actually been long preparing to “undermine” the agreement by developing banned weapon systems in secret.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon confirmed reports that at least one low-yield nuclear warhead has been installed on a US submarine. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called the news “very concerning” because it showed how the US is “really lowering the bar [on using nuclear weapons], and assumes that it can wage a limited nuclear war and win.”

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