The Pentagon has officially scrapped a test launch of a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to avoid Russian “misinterpretation,” NBC News reported Friday.
The test launch of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was canceled over concerns Russian President Vladimir Putin would view the move as escalatory, Defense officials told the outlet.
“The Department of the Air Force recently cancelled the routinely planned test flight of an LGM-30G Minuteman III missile,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Todd Breasseale said in a statement to NBC. “The launch had been previously delayed due to an overabundance of caution to avoid misinterpretation or miscommunication during the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
The Defense Department had previously postponed the Minuteman III test. In early March, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the delay of a launch “in an effort to demonstrate that we have no intention in engaging in any actions that can be misunderstood or misconstrued,” press secretary John Kirby told reporters at the time.
The order came after Putin alarmed Western powers when he directed Kremlin nuclear forces be placed on high alert amid international condemnation and crippling financial penalties against Russia for its attack of Ukraine.
Minuteman III missiles are located in underground silos in five Western states, and the Air Force typically holds four test launches annually from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif.
Because the tests are planned months or even years in advance, the postponement or cancelation of one due to international tensions is rare, NBC noted.