The US Air Force (USAF) has successfully test-fired an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) equipped with a single test re-entry vehicle.
The launch was conducted from the Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB), California, by a combined team of Air Force Global Strike Command airmen.
The team comprised 90th Missile Wing (MW) at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, 341st MW at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.
341st MW task force commander lieutenant colonel Tony Rhoades said: “This mission requires a tremendous amount of discipline, training, and attention to detail. Our airmen demonstrated this with true professionalism and proved that the Minuteman III remains the nation's premier deterrence and assurance capability.”
The testing was conducted to validate the accuracy and reliability of the Minuteman III ICBM weapon system.
Consisting of a telemetry package used for operational testing, the re-entry vehicle travelled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
The Boeing-built Minuteman III is a ground-based strategic deterrent designed to replace the USAF's LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM weapon system.
Expected to enter service in 2027, the missile will remain in service until 2075.
The Minuteman III forms a part of the nuclear triad, which also includes strategic bombers such as the B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit, as well as submarine-launched ballistic missions provided by Navy submarines.
Prior to the latest test, the USAF conducted the test launch of the missile in February.
The data collected from test launches will be used by the ICBM community, including the US Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and US Strategic Command, for continuing force development evaluation.
Image: An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test from the Vandenberg Air Force Base. Photo: courtesy of USAF photo/Senior Airman Ian Dudley.