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Minuteman 3 Missile Test Launches from Vandenberg AFB

The Air Force conducted this year's third Minuteman 3 missile test early Wednesday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base. 

The weapon reportedly blasted out of an underground silo on the North Base at 3:37 a.m., near the beginning of the six-hour window.

The military tracked the weapon’s re-entry vehicle as it traveled approximately 4,200 miles to a predetermined target near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Central Pacific Ocean. 

Several Central Coast residents reported on social media that they heard and saw the weapon’s departure early Wednesday. 

This was the third test of a Minuteman 3 missile in 2015 from Vandenberg, with the other two launching in late March.

On Tuesday, Santa Barbara-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation criticized the timing of Wednesday's test, noting it was set to occur before the end of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference held in New York City at the United Nations.  

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation statement said that dozens of nations called for the United States and other nuclear-armed governments to take their nuclear weapons off high-alert status and to start disarmament talks.. 

“Conducting a nuclear missile test, particularly at this time, sends a clear signal to the international community that the United States believes it can continue to possess nuclear weapons indefinitely and with impunity," Rick Wayman, director of programs and operations at Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, said in a written statement Tuesday.

The Air Force said it regularly tests unarmed missiles from Vandenberg to collect data about the weapon system's accuracy and reliability. 

A task force from F.E. Warren AFB in Wyomong traveled to the Central Coast to conduct the test, while Vandenberg's 576th Flight Test Squadron directs the activities and installs test-unique equipment on the weapon.

Some 450 Minuteman 3 weapons reportedly are sitting on alert in underground silos near F.E. Warren AFB, Malmstrom AFB in Montana and Minot AFB in North Dakota.

Across the country Wednesday, United Launch Alliance successfully launched an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to return the Air Force's secretive X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle to space. Previous X-37B vehicles have landed at Vandenberg after conducting their classified missions.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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