US to launch intercontinental ballistic missile in test

The US Air Force is preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile just days after North Korea carried out its latest test.

An unarmed Minuteman III missile is due to be fired off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base - located about 10 miles northwest of Lompoc - before 6am local time.

The Air Force Global Strike Command said the launch is designed to: 'validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system', the Los Angeles Times reports. 

The missile, which weighs almost 80,000 pounds and has a range of 6,000 miles, is 'an element of the nation's strategic deterrent forces', Military reports state.

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The US Air Force is preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile just days after North Korea carried out its latest test. Pictured are Air Force members at Vandenberg base during missile launch training in 2014

The US Air Force is preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile just days after North Korea carried out its latest test. Pictured are Air Force members at Vandenberg base during missile launch training in 2014

After launch, the Minuteman will travel about 4,200 miles before it drops into the western Pacific Ocean, according to the North County Tribune. 

The launch, which is the fourth of its kind this year, comes just days after North Korea conducted another ballistic missile test on Friday - the second in the last month.

The two-stage Hwasong-14 missile crashed off the coast of Japan's northern-most island, Hokkaido. 

US and South Korean experts have analysed Japanese footage capturing the rocket's re-entry vehicle shortly before it crashed into the sea.

They said the video suggests it failed to survive the extreme heat and pressure after re-entering the Earth's atmosphere following its launch.

An unarmed Minuteman III is pictured during a test on May 3, 2017. Wednesday's launch will be the fourth of the year 

An unarmed Minuteman III is pictured during a test on May 3, 2017. Wednesday's launch will be the fourth of the year 

An unarmed Minuteman III missile is due to be fired off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base - located about 10 miles northwest of Lompoc - before 6am local time. Pictured are operators during a test in March 2015

An unarmed Minuteman III missile is due to be fired off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base - located about 10 miles northwest of Lompoc - before 6am local time. Pictured are operators during a test in March 2015

But the apparent failure likely means the North will conduct more flight tests of the Hwasong-14 missile to ensure the warhead could survive the re-entry from space and hit its intended target, the analysts said.

The Hwasong-14 ICBM, which was first tested on July 4, follows decades of effort by

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