USAF test-launches Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile

3 May 2019 (Last Updated May 3rd, 2019 11:58)

The US Air Force (USAF) has conducted a test-launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, US.

USAF test-launches Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Credit: USAF / Airman 1st Class Aubree Milks.

The US Air Force (USAF) has conducted a test-launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, US.

Equipped with a test re-entry vehicle, the Minuteman III was test-launched by a team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 90th Missile Wing at FE Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, US.

The objective of the operational test was to demonstrate the flexibility and readiness of the country’s nuclear deterrent against modern-day threats.

A statement issued by the USAF noted that test launches are not performed as a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions.

Minuteman III’s re-entry vehicle comprised a high-fidelity package used for operational testing. The vehicle travelled nearly 4,200 miles towards a target positioned in the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The service stated that these test launches help it verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system.

“The ICBM is the land-based, silo-launched foundation of the country’s nuclear deterrence triad and began deployment in 1970.”

Valuable data provided by the tests will ensure a ‘continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent’, the statement added.

576th Flight Test Squadron commander colonel Dave Kelley said: “The test launch is the culmination of months of hard work and preparation that involve multiple partners. I couldn’t be more impressed with the team that we partner with to successfully execute this mission.”

Boeing is the prime contractor and original equipment manufacturer for the Minuteman missile.

The ICBM is the land-based, silo-launched foundation of the country’s nuclear deterrence triad and began deployment in 1970.

The USAF intends to replace the Boeing LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM weapon system with the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). Boeing expects deployment of GBSD to start in 2027.

Task Force commander major Travis Hilliard said: “Members of the 90th MW were selected for this task force based on their demonstrated commitment, dedication to the mission and proficiency in maintaining and operating the nation’s ICBM force.”