The United States test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile
capable of carrying nuclear warheads during a joint military exercise
Wednesday with Saudi Arabia, a Western military official said.
The Trident missile launch was carried out in the kingdom, the
official said, but he would not give a precise location. He spoke on
the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The U.S. has been strengthening missile defenses in allied Arab
nations in the Persian Gulf to help counter any potential missile
strike from Iran. Like its nuclear work, Iran's missile program is of
top concern to Washington and Arab nations wary of Tehran's growing
influence in the region.
A defense official in Washington confirmed the missile launch
on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on
the record. He said, however, that it took place late last week and was
part of a demonstration.
The Western military official in the Saudi capital, Riyadh,
said U.S. Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense
Agency, attended the test launch.
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited
the kingdom to tell Saudi officials that the Obama administration's
efforts for diplomatic engagement with Iran had come to naught, and he
asked for the influential kingdom's help to win wide backing for biting
economic penalties against Tehran over its nuclear program.
Mr. Gates also discussed bolstering Saudi air and missile
defense capabilities as part of the broader U.S. effort to boost
security in the Gulf in the face of Iran's expanding arsenal of
The United States has promised to speed up weapons sales to
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies, which have bought billions of
dollars worth of American weapons — including missile defense hardware
— in recent years.
The U.S. military is trying to reassure Gulf allies by
buttressing its defense systems with upgraded Patriot missiles on land
and more U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf capable of destroying
missiles in flight.
The Patriot missile systems, which originally were deployed in
the region to shoot down aircraft, now have been upgraded to hit
missiles in flight.
Saudi Arabia has long warned of the potential for a nuclear
arms race in the Gulf region if Iran were to gain the bomb. Iran's
assurances that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes such
as power generation have failed to ease concerns.
On Monday, Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin
Sultan said Saudi and U.S. warplanes will carry out joint exercises