A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing (MW) at Minot Air Force Base (AFB), North Dakota, and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron (STOS) at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, aboard the Airborne Launch Control System, launched an unarmed Minuteman III InterContinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) equipped with a test reentry vehicle at 11:34 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, February 20, from Vandenberg AFB, California.
The ICBM’s reentry vehicle, which contained a telemetry package used for operational testing, traveled approximately 4,200 miles/6,759 km to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent. All MMIII test launches are supported by a team from the 576th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) at Vandenberg AFB.
«The flight test program demonstrates one part of the operational capability if the ICBM weapon system», said Colonel Craig Ramsey, 576th FLTS commander. «When coupled with the other facets of our test program, we get a complete picture of the weapon system’s reliability. But perhaps most importantly, this visible message of national security serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors».
Minot AFB is one of three missile bases with crew members standing alert 24 hours a day, year-round, overseeing the nation’s ICBM alert forces.
«It has been an amazing experience for the operations and maintenance members of Team Minot to partner with the professionals from the 576th FLTS, 30th SW and 625th STOS», said Major Keith Schneider, 91st MW Task Force Director of Operations. «Everyone involved has worked hard and dedicated themselves to the mission».
The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command uses data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation. The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational credibility of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States’ ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners.
This specific test will provide accuracy and reliability data that is essential to on-going and future modifications to the weapon system, which are key to improving the already impressive effectiveness of the Minuteman III force
|Primary function||Intercontinental Ballistic Missile|
|Power plant||Three solid-propellant rocket motors: first stage ATK refurbished M55A1; second stage ATK refurbished SR-19; third stage ATK refurbished SR-73|
|Technologies chemical systems division thrust||first stage: 203,158 pounds/92,151 kg; second stage: 60,793 pounds/27,575 kg; third stage: 35,086 pounds/15,915 kg|
|Weight||79,432 pounds/36,030 kg|
|Diameter||5.5 feet/1.67 m|
|Range||5,218 NM/6,005 miles/9,664 km|
|Speed||approximately Mach 23/15,000 mph/24,000 km/h at burnout|
|Ceiling||700 miles/1,120 km|
|Date deployed||June 1970, production cessation: December 1978|