The Pentagon has announced it will test launch an intercontinental ballistic tomorrow on Wednesday, describing the test as routine. It is set to demonstrate the readiness of the United States military’s ICBM strength. The Pentagon spokesperson added that Russia has been notified of the test as well. Last month, the U.S. military carried out a test of a Minuteman III ICBM, which had been previously delayed in an attempt to avoid escalating tensions with Beijing during the recent Chinese show of force near Taiwan.
That test last month was launched from California at the Vandenberg Space Force Base, with the re-entry vehicle traveling about 4,200 miles (6,760 km). The military said about 300 such tests have been carried out previously and clarified that they were not the result of any specific global event, again likely to avoid the escalation of any tensions with China or Russia. Another recent canceled test included one of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles in April, delayed with the goal of lowering nuclear tensions with Russia during the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The nuclear-capable Minuteman III, made by Boeing, is an important asset to the U.S. military’s strategic arsenal. With a range of 6,000+ miles (9,660+ km), the missile can travel at a speed of approximately 15,000 miles per hour (24,000 kph). These missiles are spread out across the United States, contained in hardened underground silos operated by launch crews.
In February, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia’s nuclear forces would be raised to high alert. However, U.S. officials have said they have seen no reason so far to change Washington’s nuclear alert levels. On the one hand, Putin’s move sparked fear of a nuclear war over Ukraine; on the other hand, others dismiss his actions as simply an intimidation technique, as nuclear threats have long been a pressuring move by the Russian state under Putin.
Following the Cold War, Russia and the United States had by far the biggest arsenals of nuclear warheads. According to Business Insider, Russia has a nuclear arsenal of 6,850 nuclear weapons (1,600 deployed, 2,750 stored, and 2,500 retired). The United States, on the other hand, has an arsenal of 6,450 nuclear weapons (1,750 deployed, 2,050 stored, and 2,650 retired). Statista puts Russia’s arsenal at 5,997 nuclear warheads as of January 2022 and the United States at 5,428 nuclear warheads. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Russia has a stockpile of around 4,477 weapons in its nuclear arsenal. In comparison, reporting that the United States has around 3,708 warheads.
Despite varying reports on stockpiles, Russia and the U.S. have far more nuclear weapons than the rest of the world, accounting for 90% of the world’s stockpiles. The country with the third-most nuclear weapons is China, with 350, according to Statista. Business Insider says China has 280.