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Local News

Minuteman III Missile Blasts Off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Test Launch

A Minuteman III missile with a mock warhead blasted out of an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base late Saturday, the first of a pair of intercontinental ballistic missile tests planned within a week.

The three-stage weapon launched at 11:34 p.m., sending the lone re-entry vehicle to a predetermined target in the Kwajalein Atoll, approximately 4,200 miles southwest of Vandenberg, according to Air Force Global Strike Command officials.

Tests of the ICBM fleet occur regularly at Vandenberg to collect data about the weapon system’s accuracy and reliability.

The Minuteman III missions are supported by a team from VAFB’s 576th Flight Test Squadron, with the unique unit responsible for installing special equipment used for the test launches.

“The flight test program demonstrates one part of the operational capability of the ICBM weapon system,” said Col. Craig Ramsey, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “When coupled with the other facets of our test program, we get a complete picture of the weapon system’s reliability.

“But perhaps most important, this visible message of national security serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors.”

In addition to the 576th Flight Test Squadron, other Air Force Global Strike Command units that participated in the test include members of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb.

The involvement of the Nebraska unit means the command to send the weapon into flight came from crews using the Airborne Launch Control System aboard a Navy E-6B Mercury aircraft.

The Air Force has 450 nuclear-tipped Minuteman III missiles positioned around Minot AFB, Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Mont., and F.E.Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Another Minuteman III test launch is planned for later this week from Vandenberg. It would be the fifth of the year from the base.

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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