The US has begun building parts for a new ground-launched cruise missile in anticipation of the end of a cold war treaty that banned them, the Pentagon has confirmed.
The Pentagon reportedly plans to restart the manufacturing process for once-banned ground-launched cruise missiles as a Cold War-era arms agreement with Russia crumbles, Aviation Week reported.
The Trump administration declared on 1 February it was no longer bound by the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and would withdraw completely in August, pointing to the deployment of a new Russian missile which the US has complained for more than six years was a violation of the agreement.
Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said on Monday that fabrication had begun on components for a new ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM), which was first reported by Aviation Week.
It is the first time the US has built such weapons since the 1980s when cruise missiles were deployed in Europe in a tense standoff against Soviet SS-20 missiles.
In the late 1970s, the Soviets deployed the RSD-10 Pioneer intermediate-range ballistic missile system in Eastern Europe, and the US responded by deploying mid-range Pershing II missiles and intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles in Western Europe.
The deployment of the BGM-109G ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM), a variation of the Navy’s Tomahawk cruise missile, helped bring the Soviets to the negotiating table, Breaking Defense reported last October, noting that reviving this system would be relatively easy.
The INF Treaty helped defuse tensions by prohibiting both sides from developing and fielding these types of weapons, but with the treaty on its deathbed, the Department of Defense has decided to begin fabricating components for GLCM systems, Pentagon officials told Aviation Week.
The suspension of the INF Treaty has stoked fears about an escalated arms race between the US and Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already threatened the US should Washington opt to place missiles in Europe, something it presently has no intention of doing.
If Washington takes that step, Moscow “will be forced, and I want to underline this, forced to take both reciprocal and asymmetrical measures,” Putin said. “We know how to do this and we will implement these plans immediately, as soon as the corresponding threats to us become a reality.”
“It’s their right to think how they want. But can they count? I expect they can. So let them count the range and speed of our weapons,” he added.
As for the revival of the GLCM program, the US reportedly has a number of different options.
It could, according to experts, convert existing air- and sea-launched cruise missiles, like the Raytheon AGM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, Raytheon AGM-109 Tomahawk and Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface-Standoff Missile, to a GLCM role while adapting existing rocket artillery launchers for this purpose.
Or, it could build something completely new.