US Likely to Test its Ground-launched Cruise Missile this Year

David B. Gleason

David B. Gleason

President Donald Trump announced last month the U.S. would unilaterally withdraw from the treaty, pointing towards Russian 9M729 cruise missile, which American officials claim violates the treaty limitations.

The Pentagon plans to begin flight tests this year of two types of missiles that have been banned for more than 30 years by a treaty from which both the United States and Russian Federation are expected to withdraw in August, defense officials said Wednesday. The new cruise missile is supposed to have a range of 1,000 kilometers, while the ballistic missile will have a range of 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers, the officials said.

The INF treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev eliminated the medium-range missile arsenals of the world's two biggest nuclear powers and reduced their ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice. "If Russia and the USA were to reach a deal to rescue the INF treaty before August, these projects would not go forward", the news agency said.

Trump withdrew from the treaty on February 1 and triggered a formal six-month wait period before the final expiry of the agreement.

The AP news agency reported on Wednesday that the Pentagon plans to hold tests this year of two types of missiles banned by the INF.

When he announced that the United States would pull out of the INF Treaty, Trump said the military would "move forward" with developing a military response to Russia's alleged violations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to design new weapons banned under the pact but said he would deploy them only if the USA does.

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"We're going to test a ground-launched cruise missile in August", a senior defense official, who declined to be named, was quoted by Reuters as saying on March 13, according to RFE/RL.

This week, the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference took place in Washington DC.

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.

The United Nations has also asked both the countries to save the treaty. The missile is unlikely to be deployed sooner than in five years, the news agency said.

Russian Federation has repeatedly denied the allegations that the missile violates the treaty, pointing out that American missile defence systems deployed in Europe can be re-purposed for offensive use and therefore are themselves violating the accord.

But he thought it was more likely that the Trump administration was simply planning for the treaty's demise. "If the Russians come back in, in August we wouldn't do the test", the official said.

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