The U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) equipped with a test reentry vehicle at 1:13 a.m. PST on Oct. 2, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The ICBM’s reentry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands during the test conducted by the U.S. Air Force’s 341st Missile Wing based at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.
According to the U.S. Air Force, these test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.
“The flight test program demonstrates one part of the operational capability of the ICBM weapon system,” said Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “The Minuteman III is nearly 50 years old, and continued test launches are essential in ensuring its reliability until the mid-2030s when the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent is fully in place. Most importantly, this visible message of national security serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors.”
“The test demonstrates that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is robust, flexible, ready and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies. Test launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions”, said an Air Force statement.
Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB were selected for the task force to support the test launch. Malmstrom is one of three missile bases with crew members standing alert 24 hours a day, year-round, overseeing the nation’s ICBM alert forces, the others being Francis E. Warren AFB, Wyoming (90th Missile Wing “Mighty Ninety”) and Minot AFB, North Dakota (91st Missile Wing “Roughriders”).
“It’s been an incredible opportunity for Malmstrom (AFB’s) team of combat crew and maintenance members to partner with the professionals from the 576th FLTS and 30th Space Wing,” said Maj. Kurt Antonio, task force commander. “I’m extremely proud of the team’s hard work and dedication to accomplish a unique and important mission to prepare the ICBM for the test and monitor the sortie up until test execution. The attention given to every task accomplished here reflects the precision and professionalism they – and our fellow Airmen up north – bring every day to ensure the success of our mission out in the missile field.”
The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command uses data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation. The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational capability of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States’ ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners.
The launch calendars are built three to five years in advance, and planning for each individual launch begins six months to a year prior to launch.