Monday, February 19 , 2018, 3:37 am | Fair 49º


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Vandenberg AFB Minuteman III Test Launch Delayed Ahead of Olympics

An unarmed Minuteman III missile test planned this week at Vandenberg Air Force Base mysteriously was canceled, possibly due to a truce created ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.

Vandenberg officials on Monday announced plans to conduct the test of an unarmed Minuteman III missile between late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

Sometime later Monday, the test was canceled, with the mariners’ notices withdrawn. Notices of the pending missile test were quietly pulled off the Vandenberg website, but base officials did not notify those who received the press release about the delay.

On Tuesday, Vandenberg officials referred questions to the Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees land-based nuclear forces.

However, the Louisiana-based organization declined to comment, and instead sent media queries to the Office of Secretary of Defense.

A representative of the OSD press office did not respond to a request for information. 

The canceled test, reportedly one of two planned for February, followed a letter from the Santa Barbara-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation to Defense Secretary James Mattis.

David Krieger, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation president, and the organization’s chairman, Robert Laney, noted the United States and South Korea has agreed to postpone other military exercises to respect a truce for the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.

Missile tests typically are scheduled years in advance and are part of a program to collect data about the weapon systems accuracy and reliability.

“Regardless of advance planning, it is essential to global security that the United States be flexible and respect worthwhile initiatives for peace such as the Olympic Truce,” the letter said..

They noted missile tests can be delayed due to unfavorable weather, technical troubles and other reasons, arguing for a delay until after the Winter Olympics. 

“If North Korea were to test an ICBM during the Olympics, many nations, including the United States, would view the act as provocative and threatening,” the letter said. “One does not have to stretch the imagination too far to guess how North Korea might react to our testing of ICBMs during the same period.

“For the sake of global stability and to honor the Olympic spirit, I urge you to postpone the February ICBM tests.”

Vandenberg officials said they did not intend to mislead the public or media, but did not explain why they remained mum about a test they publicized.

"Yesterday, a test launch on Feb. 6 was announced in error," said Robin Ghormley, chief of public affairs for the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg.  "At this time, there is no test launch scheduled."

Officials typically alert the public about upcoming launches, including warning mariners to remain off the waters for safety reasons. 

This wouldn’t be the first delay of a Vandenberg ICBM test related to diplomatic reasons. 

In 2013, the military announced another Minuteman III test postponement after concerns it could be misinterpreted amid escalating tensions with North Korea.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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