For the fourth time this year, a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile blasted out of a silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base Wednesday during an operational test of the weapon system.

The three-stage, solid-fueled weapon rose out of an underground silo on the northern section of Vandenberg during an operational test at 3:03 a.m.

“Minuteman III launches are an incredibly important validation of some of our nation’s most vital defensive capabilities,” said Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander and the launch decision authority for the Minuteman launch.

“The 30th Space Wing is proud of the partnership we have with the amazing professionals of Air Force Global Strike Command in the execution of these launches,” Moss added.

The Air Force tracked the weapon’s mock re-entry vehicle as it traveled approximately 4,200 miles away to a predetermined target in the central Pacific Ocean near the Kwajalein Atoll.

This was fourth test launch of a Minuteman III missile in 2015 — two occurred in March and another in May — after years with fewer than normal launches due to technical troubles.

“​Vandenberg has hosted the operational test launch program for over five decades, and it’s here that we really have a chance to demonstrate the effectiveness and operational capabilities of our weapon systems,” said Col. Craig Ramsey, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. 

Members of the 576th, which is based at Vandenberg, add test-unique equipment to Minuteman missiles prior to launches while working with a team from the base where the weapon once sat on alert — in this case, the 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota.

“It truly is a complex mission to get an asset from the operational unit, add test and safety packages to it, and ensure all facets of the mission are test-ready — but it’s handled by professionals who are the best in the world at their job,” Ramsey added.

Wednesday’s test occurred 45 years to the day after the North Dakota unit put the Air Force’s first Minuteman III missiles on alert.

The Air Force Global Strike Command regularly conducts tests of the weapon system to verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, randomly selecting one of the more than 400 ICBMs near Minot AFB; F. E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; and Malmstrom AFB, Montana.

“I’m truly impressed by the knowledge, the skills and the teamwork that our Airmen demonstrated during this test launch,” said Gen. Robin Rand, AFGSC commander.

“When I think of the value of these types of tests have played over the years, I think of the messages we send to our allies who seek protection from aggression and to adversaries who threaten peace. I also think about the American people we’ve sworn an oath to protect; people like my grandchildren who count on us to get this right. We can’t let them down.”

The Santa Barbara-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation objected to the Minuteman test, saying the United States continues to fail to comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms rate at an early date.”

“How can it be fine for the U.S. to test-fire these missiles time and again, while expressing criticism when other countries conduct missile tests?” said David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

“It is a clear example of U.S. double standards. Such double standards encourage nuclear proliferation and nuclear arms races and make the world a more dangerous place,” he said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

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