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US Air Force Aborts Minuteman III ICBM Test Launch

The launch system reportedly shut down automatically during final countdown.

A test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California has been aborted before its launch, the US Air Force reported on Wednesday. The cause of the abort is currently under investigation.

The weapon was due to be test-launched on May 5, between 12:15 am and 6:15 am PST (7:15 am and 1:15 pm GMT), however, the launch system reportedly shut down automatically during final countdown. Meanwhile, the Air Force is currently assessing when it may be able to reschedule the launch.

“The Air Force adheres to strict protocols when performing operational test launches, only launching when all safety parameters with the test range and missile are met,” the report stated.

“During terminal countdown, the missile computer detected a fault in the sequence of checks it does prior to launching. Upon detection of this fault, it shut itself down,” Air Force Global Strike Command spokesperson Carla Pampe told Air Force Times. “There has not been an incident like this in recent memory.”

Test launches of ICBMs are conducted to evaluate their performance and gather data to keep their systems effective. 

Second Test Launch

This would have been the second test launch of the Minuteman III this year. The first test launch was conducted in February.

Launch calendars are prepared three to five years in advance, and individual launches take six months to a year of preparation.

Introduced in 1970, the Minuteman III carries three smaller warheads instead of a large one and is the first multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) to be deployed. Today, the United States fields LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBMs across rural America even decades after the Cold War.

Successful tests of the missile have been conducted in the past. Last year, the Air Force tested an unarmed Minuteman III that traveled 6,700 kilometers (4,200 miles) over the Pacific Ocean before landing in the sea near the Marshall Islands.

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