U.S. Test Launches LGM-30G Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) from Vandenberg Air Force Base

The U.S. has conducted a test launch of an unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman-III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

The ICBM was launched from a silo at the Launch Facility 04 (LF-04) of the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 11:01 PM Pacific Standard Time (PST). The missile was launched to a test range near the Kwajalein Atoll near the Marshall Islands approximately 4,200 miles away.

The test came just days after the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, citing Russian noncompliance. Russia has also tested its RS-24 Yars ICBM, equipped with multiple warheads, from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome state test site on Feb. 6.

The U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (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.

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