080217 Minuteman III test.jpg (copy)

In this Aug. 2, 2017, file photo, airmen from F.E. Warren and Vandenberg Air Force bases successfully launch a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from VAFB. A similar test was conducted Monday morning at the base.

An unarmed Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Monday morning as part of a test of the weapons system, according to the U.S. Air Force.

The missile, carrying a mock warhead, was fired off around 1:23 a.m. from the northern portion of the base. Air Force officials said prior to the test that it was unrelated to any specific events happening around the world.

“Operational test launches of the Minuteman III provide valuable data to planners and holistically test the system, procedures and airmen from the initial mission planning to the final weapons employment phases,” read a portion of that prelaunch statement. “These tests are not related to any real world events.”

The Air Force also noted that the tests are typically planned three to five years in advance, and preparations for each test usually begin about six months prior to launch.

Still, at least one anti-nuclear weapons group took issue with the timing of Monday's test, just as it did for a similar test that was conducted at VAFB on April 25.

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation put out a statement Monday morning questioning whether such a test sends a negative message, particularly ahead of a summit planned for next month between U.S. and North Korean leaders that is aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

“When it comes to ballistic missile tests, the U.S. continues to operate on a hypocritical double standard," said David Kreiger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. “Its own missile tests and those of its allies are treated as necessary and business-as-usual, while the missile tests of non-allied countries are treated as provocative and dangerous."

The tests are needed, according to Air Force Global Strike Command, to ensure that the U.S.'s nuclear enterprise is safe, secure, effective and ready to be able to deter, detect and defend against attacks.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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