USAF performs successful test launch of Minuteman III ICBM

3 October 2019 (Last Updated October 3rd, 2019 14:55)

The US Air Force (USAF) has launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US.

USAF performs successful test launch of Minuteman III ICBM
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Credit: USAF / Staff Sgt JT Armstrong.

The US Air Force (USAF) has launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US.

The nuclear-capable Minuteman III missile used in the test was equipped with a test reentry vehicle.

The test was performed by a team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

Crewmembers at the Malmstrom missile base are prepared for deployment throughout the year, overseeing the US ICBM alert forces.

In a statement, the USAF said that the successful missile launch demonstrated the capability of the country’s nuclear deterrent to ‘deter 21st-century threats’.

The service added that the test launch is a routine exercise and not in response to ‘world events or regional tensions’.

The reentry vehicle travelled around 4,200 miles across the Pacific Ocean to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

576th Flight Test Squadron commander colonel Omar Colbert said: “The flight test programme demonstrates one part of the operational capability of the ICBM weapon system.

“The Minuteman III is nearly 50 years old, and continued test launches are essential in ensuring its reliability until the mid-2030s when the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent is fully in place.

“Most importantly, this visible message of national security serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors.”

The launch is intended to test the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system. Each launch involves six to 12 months of planning.

Data from the launch is used for continuing force development evaluation.

Task force commander major Kurt Antonio said: “It’s been an incredible opportunity for Malmstrom (AFB’s) team of combat crew and maintenance members to partner with the professionals from the 576th FLTS and 30th Space Wing.

“I’m extremely proud of the team’s hard work and dedication to accomplish a unique and important mission to prepare the ICBM for the test and monitor the sortie up until test execution.”

In May, the USAF test-launched an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM from the Vandenberg base.