US Air Force tests Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile

The U.S. Air Force on Wednesday test launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, officials said.

Minuteman III ICBM missile launch
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California during an operational test at 5:26 a.m. Wednesday, April 25, 2018. Image: US Air Force./Joe Davila)

According to a statement from Air Force Global Strike Command, the missile took off at 5:26 am (12:26 GMT) and was successful.

“A reliable test launch occurs when a test missile launches, completes its flight path within a designated safety corridor, the equipment functions properly, sensor data is collected, and the test reentry vehicle impacts where targeted,” the statement read.

“Though the reentry vehicle reached its intended target, the test and analysis data is not releasable to the public.”

Minuteman ICBMs are regularly tested with launches from Vandenberg that send unarmed re-entry vehicles to a target area in the middle of the Pacific to check the readiness, effectiveness and accuracy of the weapons system.

The test had been scheduled up to five years ago. This is the first such launch this year after a test planned for February was postponed. The most recent launch was last August.

Decades after the Cold War, the United States still fields LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBMs, dotted in silos across rural America, its only land-based ICBM in service. After hitting a peak of 1,000 missiles in the 1970s, the current U.S. Minuteman III inventory consists of fewer than 400.

It is one component of the U.S. nuclear triad that includes the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile and nuclear weapons carried by aircraft.

The missile first entered service in 1962 primarily in deterrence role, threatening Soviet cities with a second strike if the U.S. was attacked.

Three years later, a new version was introduced. Significantly modified, Minuteman II was designed to be much more accurate and to attack hardened targets including missile silos.

Minuteman III was introduced in 1970. It was designed to carry three smaller warheads instead of one large one, and was the first multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) to be deployed.

The U.S. Air Force plans to keep the Minuteman in service until at least 2030, eventually switching it for a new missile known currently known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.

In its February nuclear posture review, the Trump administration called for the overhaul of the US nuclear arsenal and the development of new low-yield atomic bombs, in response to Russia’s actions in the past several years.

US 2018 Nuclear Posture Review: It’s the Baltic states, stupid!

With reporting from AFP

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