The US Air Force (USAF) has successfully test-fired an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) equipped with a test re-entry vehicle.

A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing conducted the test launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

GT221 Task Force commander major Neil Copenhaver said: “I am exceedingly proud of the maintainers and operators from the 91st Missile Wing, including those that supported this mission from the onset.

"This Task Force worked flawlessly alongside the absolute professionals from the 576 FLTS to make this mission a success.

“Promoting the deterrence, assurance and strike capability of the Minuteman III, along with the insight it provides to force readiness, could not be done without the dedication, professionalism and teamwork of the men and women throughout the 91st Missile Wing.”

The testing was aimed at validating the operational capability of the ICBM system.

The re-entry vehicle, comprising a telemetry package used for operational testing, travelled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Built by Boeing, Minuteman III is a ground-based strategic deterrent designed to replace the USAF's LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM weapon system.

Expected to enter operational service in 2027, the missile will remain in service through 2075.

"The testing was aimed at validating the operational capability of the ICBM system."

Prior to the latest test, the USAF conducted the test launch of the missile in September last year.

The test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, by providing data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.

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. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo by Michael Peterson.