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Vandenberg to Test Launch Minuteman III Missile Sunday

An unarmed ballistic missile is scheduled to launch Sunday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base as part of an operational test.

The Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is set to launch from north Vandenberg between 3:01 a.m. and 9:01 a.m. Sunday, according to base officials.

The missile's unarmed re-entry system is expected to travel about 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

The launch team, under the direction of the 576th FLTS, includes airmen from the 91st Missile Wing from Minot AFB in North Dakota and the 90th Missile Wing from F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming.

“Every test launch provides an opportunity to demonstrate the readiness, effectiveness and accuracy of the weapon system,” said Col. Lance Kawane, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “A tremendous amount of teamwork is involved in conducting the test launch mission.”

The probability of having to scratch the launch because of unfavorable weather conditions stood at 30 percent Friday, according to Vandenberg’s launch weather officer.

Upper level winds, which were forecast to blow at 10 to 15 knots from the northwest, were the less predictable deciding factor, the officer said.

30th Space Wing Commander Col. Keith Balts will be the launch decision authority.

“2013 has proved to be a busy year for the Western Range,” Balts said in a statement. “Whether we are supporting a mid-morning launch of a Delta-IV or an early morning Minuteman III launch, public safety is always our number one priority.”

Information obtained during Sunday’s test launch, which will be collected by Air Force Global Strike Command’s 576th FLTS, will ensure the continued sustainability of the ICBM program.

Agencies across the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Energy are expected to use the data to ensure a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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