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Minuteman ICBM Test Set for Wednesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base

The year’s fourth Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test from Vandenberg Air Force Base is planned for early Wednesday.

An unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile is set to pop out of an underground silo on North Base between 12:01 and 6:01 a.m.

Typically, missile tests are targeted for the opening of the six-hour launch window, although technical troubles or unfavorable weather can cause delays.

“Team V is positioned to work with Air Force Global Strike Command to test launch the Minuteman III missile,” said Col. Michael Hough, 30th Space Wing commander and the launch decision authority for the mission.

“Our long history in partnering with the men and women of the 576th Flight Test Squadron shows that the Western Range stands ready and able to create a safe launch environment,” he added.

The Western Range refers to a broad network of sensors and other equipment that monitors Vandenberg’s just-launched rockets and missiles to ensure they safely remain on the planned fligh paths.

Upon liftoff, the military will track the weapon’s lone warhead as it travels some 4,200 miles, typically to a predetermined target in the Kwajalein Atoll in the western Pacific Ocean.

Missile tests are conducted several times a year “to validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system,” according to the Global Strike Command. The Louisiana-based organization oversees the Air Force’s land-based and bomber-based nuclear weapon systems.

Members of the 576th Flight Test Squadron, which is located at Vandenberg, installed tracking, telemetry and command destruct systems on the missile for the test.

The United States has approximately 450 Minuteman III missiles sitting on alert near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Mont.; Minot Air Force Base near Minot, N.D.; and F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo.

The test will come days after North Korea conducted another ballistic missile test, demonstrating the capability to conduct a 45-minute flight and one that defense experts say puts the continental United States in range of a strike from the increasingly unstable regime.

Vandenberg’s missile tests  are scheduled months in advance rather than being a response to an immediate global situation.

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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