US Tests Minuteman III ICBM Airborne Launch Control System in California

The US Air Force and Navy have trialed an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) airborne launch control system at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.

The test was part of periodic evaluations to assess nuclear deterrents against advanced threats and aimed at reassuring allies of the government’s existing capabilities.

“Strategic deterrence is the most critical mission in our Air Force and the cornerstone of America’s defense,” US Air Force Global Strike Commander Gen. Thomas Bussiere stated.

“The foundation of our command and our ability to execute our mission is because of Striker Airmen, and I have full and unwavering confidence in their abilities.”

“This test launch reinforces what our allies and partners already know — we’re always ready to defend the United States with combat ready nuclear forces anytime, anywhere, on order, to conduct global strike.”

Airborne Launch Control System Validation

During the launch, the air force’s 625th Strategic Operations Squadron based in Nebraska flew aboard the navy’s E-6 Mercury aircraft to review the effectiveness of the ICBM’s launch control system.

The weapon’s one test re-entry vehicle traveled 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

“We have a unique ability to strike a target anywhere, at any time, should the commander-in-chief deem it vital to our national security and the security of our allies,” 377th Test Evaluation Group Commander Col. Chris Cruise explained.

“An Airborne Launch Control System test validates that capability, ensures we have redundancy in our weapons systems, and showcases the interoperability with our Navy counterparts.”

Continuous Preparation

In February, the US launched a Minuteman III from the same site a day after North Korea exhibited its locally-made ICBMs.

The US Air Force emphasized that the latest ICBM launch is not a response to current international events and is similar to over 300 tests conducted before.

“The test launch is a culmination of months of preparation that involve multiple government partners,” the service said.

“The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and US Strategic Command, uses data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation.”

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