A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen launched an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle at 12:27 a.m. Pacific Time Oct. 29 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, according to an Air Force media release.
Officials stressed the test, planned well in advance, was not a reaction to current events.
“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,” according to the release. “Test launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions.”
The test was the latest in a string of tests of the ICBM and demonstrates that the U.S. nuclear deterrent is “safe, secure, reliable and effective” means to deter modern threats and reassure allies, Air Force officials said.
“Like previous test launches, this event demonstrated the Air Force’s commitment to the Nation’s nuclear enterprise while ensuring the United States' nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, and effective to deter our adversaries while reassuring our allies and partners,” said Air Force Chief of Staff, General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., said in a statement. “We must continue to invest in this viable deterrent, and the Airmen who support this mission, as part of the most responsive leg of our nuclear triad.”
The ICBM’s reentry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. 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.
“We have had a busy test launch schedule the last few months, and our team has worked very hard to successfully execute each mission,” said Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron Commander, in a statement. “Today’s launch sends a visible message of deterrence to the world, and I couldn’t be more proud of the dedication and professionalism of our team.”
The missile came from the 91st Missile Wing, with men and women supporting the launch from all three AFGSC missile wings as well as the 576th Flight Test Squadron.
“This test took a missile and an incredible team of maintainers and launch crews, all pulled from active missile wings, and that really demonstrates the continued readiness and reliability of both the Minuteman III and the professional men and women who support it,” said Lt. Col. Brock Sargent, Task Force Commander, in a statement. “Together we make up a weapon system that stands on continuous alert, defending the United States and our allies 24/7, just as we have for the last 50 years.”
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.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.