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September 23, 2014

USAF conducts operational test launch of Minuteman III missile

The US Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) conducted the operational test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, US.

Minuteman III

The US Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) conducted the operational test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, US.

Featuring a telemetry package used for operational testing, the ICBM’s reentry vehicle travelled 4,200m over the Pacific ocean to a target on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Carried out by the 91st Missile Wing airmen, the launch was aimed at verifying the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.

576th Flight Test Squadron commander colonel Kelvin Townsend said: "This launch is the result of months of hard work and preparation by both our team here at Vandenberg, Airmen from Minot AFB and engineers from the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.

"This launch validated our teamwork and demonstrated a strong and visible display of America’s deterrent and global strike capabilities."

The data obtained from the test is expected to be used by the entire ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and US Strategic Command, to continue force development evaluation.

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Manufactured by Boeing, the LGM-30G Minuteman III is a ground-based, long-range, solid-fuel, three-stage ICBM designed to carry single or multiple nuclear warheads.

"The data obtained from the test is expected to be used by the entire ICBM community."

The missile forms one component of a nuclear triad that is complemented by the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile and by nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bomber aircraft.

The missile is scheduled to be equipped with a new guidance data acquisition system (GDAS) that is being developed by Boeing under a $4.9m contract awarded by USAF earlier this week.

While the existing GDAS tests Minuteman III’s guidance system, the enhanced system would be specifically designed for nuclear hardness and survivability testing at Little Mountain Test Facility in Ogden, Utah, US.


Image: An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, US. Photo: courtesy of Joe Davila/Released.

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