An unarmed Minuteman missile test carrying three mock warheads lifted off early Wednesday from Vandenberg Space Force Base, kicking off a busy month of launches.
The three-stage weapon popped out its underground silo on North Base at 1:13 a.m., slightly more than an hour after the six-hour launch window opened.
The ICBM’s test reentry vehicles traveled approximately 4,200 miles to predetermined targets in the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
“We have had a busy test schedule just in the past few months, and I am in awe of the way our team has performed during each mission,” said Col. Christopher Cruise, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “Today’s launch sends a visible message of assurance to our allies, and I couldn’t be more proud of the mission of continued deterrence this launch represents.”
The military conducts several tests of unarmed Minuteman III missiles each year to “validate and verify the safety, security, effectiveness, and readiness of the weapon system, according to Air Force Global Strike Command. The Louisiana-based military organization oversees the Minuteman fleet.
This year’s first intercontinental ballistic missile test finally occurred Aug. 16 following delays due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and then global tensions with China.
“These tests show the reliability of our deterrence weapons systems, showcase the continued reliability of the Minuteman III, and the incredible people who make it work,” said Maj. Natalie Quinn, task force ommander. “All of these components comprise a system that stands on continuous alert, defending the United States and our allies 24/7.”
Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, and 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota, were selected for the task force to support the test launch.
The three missile bases have crew members standing alert 24 hours a day, year-round, overseeing the nation’s ICBM alert forces.
“The Airmen and Guardians who perform this vital mission are some of the most skillfully trained and dedicated personnel in America’s Air and Space Force,” said Col. Bryan Titus, Space Launch Delta 30 vice commander and the launch-decision authority for Wednesday’s test launch.
September is slated to be busy at Vandenberg. Next in line will be the return to flight for Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket.
Liftoff is planned for after 3 p.m. Sunday from Space Launch Complex-2.
The launch attempt will follow the unsuccessful debut of the Alpha rocket last year when the booster’s flight ended in a fireball.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.