USAF test launches unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile

17 December 2013 (Last Updated December 17th, 2013 18:30)

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

Minuteman III missile

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

Involving airmen from the 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom AFB and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron, Offutt AFB, the test launch was carried out under the direction of the 576th Flight Test Squadron (576 FLTS).

20th Air Force commander major general Jack Weinstein said every test launch validates the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.

''Our Airmen maintain and operate this weapon system year-round in some challenging environments, and today's test is a result of their tireless devotion to this mission,'' Weinstein said.

The data gathered by the launch is expected to be used by the entire ICBM community, including the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Strategic Command, to continue force development evaluation.

Apart from demonstrating the operational credibility of the Minuteman III missile, the ICBM test launch programme also augments the US's ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of the national security and the security of its allies and partners.

Manufactured by Boeing, the LGM-30G Minuteman III is a ground-based ICBM designed to deliver nuclear warheads, and represents one component of a nuclear triad that is complemented by the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and by nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bomber aircraft.

Having entered operational service with the USAF in 1968, the missiles are currently located in silos at the 90th Missile Wing at Warren AFB in Wyoming, the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB in Montana and the 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB in North Dakota, US.


Image: An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile being launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US. Photo: courtesy of Michael Peterson.

Defence Technology