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Vandenberg Air Force Base Conducts Successful Minutemen III Test Launch

Wednesday morning's intercontinental ballistic missile test is the fifth this year

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle launched early Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle launched early Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Ian Dudley / USAF photo)

The year’s fifth Minuteman III missile with a mock warhead popped out of its underground silo for a successful test early Wednesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Blastoff occurred at 5:45 a.m. with the three-stage, solid-fueled weapon launching from the northern section of the 99,000-acre base.

“This launch, like every operational test launch from Vandenberg, is a vital part of demonstrating the readiness of our nation's nuclear capabilities,” said Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander who also served as the launch decision authority.

“The combined team from the 30th Space Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command's 576th Flight Test Squadron performed exceptionally well during this important launch,” Moss added. “It really was an impressive effort.” 

The Air Force also conducted a pair of Minuteman missile tests on different days in March, another in May and one in August  after years with fewer than normal launches due to technical troubles. While this is the fifth for 2015, it's the first in the new fiscal year which started Oct. 1.

The ICBM's re-entry vehicle was equipped with sensors so officials could gather data as it traveled approximately 4,200 miles to a target in the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific Ocean.

Officials at Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees units responsible for the Minuteman fleet, says test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing data to continue safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.

The launch team, under the direction of Vandenberg’s 576th Flight Test Squadron, included crew members and maintainers from the 90th Missile Wing, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming.

Test launches at Vandenberg are routinely conducted with randomly selected ICBMs from one of three missile bases. 

The United States has some 450 Minuteman missiles sitting on alert near F.E. Warren, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and Minot AFB, North Dakota. 

Santa Barbara-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation said Wednesday's test defied diplomatic efforts for nuclear disarmament.

“This is the fifth ICBM launch this year.,” said David Krieger, foundation president. “Each launch sends the same message: that the U.S. can hit targets on the other side of the world with its nuclear weapons. No one doubts that. 

“What is doubted in the world community is that the U.S. is serious about fulfilling its obligations to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament," Krieger added.

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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