Update: US tests ground-launched missile concept previously banned under INF

22 August 2019

No longer bound by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Washington announced that it is officially flight-testing ground-based cruise missiles that can fly between 500 km and 5,500 km.

On San Nicolas Island, California, on 18 August, the US Department of Defense (DoD) conducted a flight test a Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM).

“The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 km of flight,” the department said on 19 August. “Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the [DoD’s] development of future intermediate-range capabilities.”

A DoD spokesperson told Jane’s that the US Navy (USN), in partnership with the Strategic Capabilities Office, used a Mark 41 Vertical Launching System (Mk 41 VLS) to fire a “variant” of the Tomahawk LACM.

On 18 August, the Pentagon launched a Tomahawk missile from a Mk 41 Vertical Launching System. (US DoD)On 18 August, the Pentagon launched a Tomahawk missile from a Mk 41 Vertical Launching System. (US DoD)

The flight test came just over two weeks after Washington formally withdrew from the INF Treaty on 2 August citing that Moscow᾿s 9M729 missiles, launchers, and associated equipment violated the treaty.

However, prior to the US withdrawal, Russia was also accused by the United States of also violating the treaty. Specifically, Moscow charged that the US deployment of the Mk 41-based Aegis missile defence systems in Poland and Romania enabled the deployment of LACMs ashore, a development that would be banned under the treaty.

In response to the recent US test, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called it “regrettable”, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

“Perhaps, there can be no clearer and more explicit confirmation of the fact that the United States has been developing such systems for a long time, and preparations for quitting the agreement included, in particular, the relevant research and development,” Ryabkov is quoted as saying.

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