A test launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile with a mock warhead will take place late Thursday night or early Friday morning at Vandenberg Space Force Base. 

Air Force Global Strike Command’s three-stage weapon will pop out of its underground silo on North Base between 11:01 p.m. Thursday and 5:01 a.m. Friday. 

Missile tests typically occur at the opening of the six-hour launch window unless technical troubles or unfavorable weather at Vandenberg or downrange interferes with the plans. 

The military will track the weapon as it travels thousands of miles southwest of Vandenberg to a predetermined target, typically in the central Pacific Ocean.

Vandenberg usually conducts Minuteman III missile tests a few times a year and schedules them years in advance, rather than reacting to any global situations. 

“Consistent with previous test launches, this ICBM test launch will validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system,” Vandenberg officials said in a written statement. 

“In accordance with standard procedures, the United States has transmitted a pre-launch notification pursuant to the Hague Code of Conduct, and notified the Russian government in advance, pursuant to New START obligations,” Vandenberg officials added. 

The Air Force has some 400 Minuteman III missile positioned near Minot AFB, North Dakota; Malmstrom AFB, Montana; and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming.

For Minuteman tests, airmen from the missile units travel to Vandenberg to conduct many of the chores related to the launch. 

Additionally, members of the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg install test-unique equipment on the vehicle.

“The purpose of the ICBM test launch program is to demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent,” according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

The previous Minuteman III missile test from Vandenberg occurred in September.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.