Feb. 5 (UPI) — A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile with a test reentry vehicle shortly after midnight on Wednesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, according to U.S. Strategic Command.
The test launch is meant verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, Air Force officials said.
“Test launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions,” U.S. Strategic Command said in an announcement of the test.
The ICBM’s reentry vehicle travelled about 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Strategic Command said.
The team that conducted the lunch included airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, as well as the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
The test was a developmental test launch, which differs from routine operational test launches. Developmental test launches use spare missiles from storage to validate flight worthiness of new or replacement components in an as-near-to operational environment as possible, Strategic Command said.
The Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and U.S. Strategic Command use data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation.
“Developmental testing provides valuable data to Air Force Global Strike Command and Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center for both modernization and sustainment of the ICBM weapon system,” said Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron Commander. “The Minuteman III is aging, and modernization programs such as this are essential in ensuring that our Nation has a reliable nuclear deterrent through the rest of its lifespan and beyond. Most importantly, this visible indicator of our National security capabilities serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors.”
The Minuteman III deployment began in 1970 with an expected lifespan of 10 years, but in 1993 Boeing began to redesign the missile’s guidance electronics to extend the service life of the missile.
The first successful test with the upgraded guidance system took place in 1998, and the most recent in May of last year.