US Air Force terminates Minuteman III ICBM test flight after ‘anomaly’

The U.S. Air Force terminated a test of an unarmed Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile after it developed an “anomaly” in flight, officials said.

The flight of the Minuteman III ICBM, which launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, was safely terminated over the Pacific Ocean at 4:42 am on Tuesday, July 31.

Officials are forming a “launch analysis group” to determine what caused the anomaly.

“An anomaly is any unexpected event during the test. Since anomalies may arise from many factors relating to the operational platform itself, or the test equipment, careful analysis is needed to identify the cause,” Air Force Global Strike Command said in a statement.

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.

Minuteman III ICBM operational test
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 1:23 a.m. on Monday, May 14, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Image: US Air Force/Airman Aubree Milks

The most recent operational test launches of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was on May 14.

Minuteman was also tested on April 25, after a February launch was postponed. Another test was carried out last August.

Decades after the Cold War, the United States still fields Minuteman III ICBMs, dotted in silos across rural America, its only land-based ICBM in service.

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 current U.S. Minuteman III inventory consists of fewer than 400.

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.

With reporting from AFP

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