The U.S. Air Force has conducted an operational test launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
The ICBM, with a mock warhead, blasted out of its underground silo on North Base at 11:01 Pacific Standard Time, the opening of its six-hour launch window, Noozhawk reported.
“A reliable test launch occurs when a test missile launches, completes its flight path within a designated safety corridor, the equipment functions properly, sensor data is collected, and the reentry vehicle impacts where targeted,” Noozhawk quoted Joe Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command AFGSC, which oversees America’s land and air-based nuclear weapons.
“Though the reentry vehicle reached its intended target, the test and analysis data is not releasable to the public”, he added.
A #MinutemanIII intercontinental ballistic missile (#ICBM) launches during an operational test at 11:01 PST Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at #VandenbergAFB, Calif. (#USAirForce video by Jan Jones/Released) @AFGlobalStrike @usairforce pic.twitter.com/PGOLWn2MFS
— DefPost (@defpostmedia) November 8, 2018
AFGSC conducts approximately four Minuteman III missile tests annually from Vandenberg AFB to gather information about the weapon system’s accuracy and reliability. The missiles are usually pulled randomly from a silo at a ICBM site, transported and reassembled at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and launched to a test range near the Kwajalein Atoll near the Marshall Islands.
As of 2017, the LGM-30G Minuteman III version is the only land-based ICBM in service in the United States. It is one component of the U.S. nuclear triad with the other two parts of the triad being the UGM-133A Trident II/D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), and nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bombers.
Peaking at 1,000 missiles in the 1970s, the current U.S. force consists of 450 Minuteman-III missiles in missile silos around Malmstrom AFB, Montana; Minot AFB, North Dakota; and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming.
By February 2018 this will be reduced to 400 armed missiles, with 50 unarmed missiles in reserve, and four non-deployed test launchers to comply with the New START treaty.
The Air Force plans to keep the missile in service until at least 2030.