Tag Archives: Minuteman III

Reliability of the ICBM

A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base (AFB), Wyoming, launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a single test reentry vehicle August 2, 2017 at 2:10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time from Vandenberg AFB, California.

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ian Dudley)
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ian Dudley)

While not a response to recent North Korean actions, the test demonstrated the U.S.’ nuclear enterprise is safe, secure, effective and ready to deter, detect and defend against attacks on the U.S. and its allies.

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. These 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.

«This operational test launch highlights the commitment and outstanding professionalism of the 90th Missile Wing, the 576th Flight Test Squadron and our mission partners in the 30th Space Wing», said Colonel Dave Kelley, the 576th FLTS commander. «These test launches require the highest-degree of technical competence and commitment at every level and provide critical data necessary to validate the reliability, accuracy and performance of the ICBM force».

F.E. Warren 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.

«I am extremely proud of the operators and maintainers from the 90th Missile Wing. This task force worked flawlessly alongside the absolute professionals from the 576 Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) to make this mission a success», said Lieutenant Colonel Troy Stauter, the Glory Trip 223 Task Force commander. «Promoting the deterrence, assurance and strike capability of the Minuteman III could not be done without the dedication, professionalism and teamwork of the men and women of Air Force Global Strike Command».

The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, 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 capability of the Minuteman III and ensures the U.S.’ 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.

 

General characteristics

Primary function Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
Contractor Boeing Co.
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
Inventory 450

 

GT-223GM MMIII Media Release

We want them to win –
100 to nothing

The Air Force’s priorities for modernization and continuous improvement in the nuclear enterprise were the top of discussion during the Air Force Association’s monthly breakfast January 20 in Arlington, Virginia.

Next-generation long range strike aircraft concept (Photo: Northrop Grumman illustration)
Next-generation long range strike aircraft concept (Photo: Northrop Grumman illustration)

«This nuclear deterrent is as relevant and is as needed today as it was in January of 1965», said Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the Air Force assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration. «And it will be, until that happy day comes when we rid the world of nuclear weapons. It will be just as relevant in 2025, ten years from now».

To remain relevant, Harencak explained the importance of investing in programs to modernize the two legs of the nuclear triad owned by the Air Force, including the long-range strike bomber and the ground-based strategic deterrent.

«It’s not going to be inexpensive, but it’s also not going to be unaffordable», he said. «It’s something we have to do to protect our nation. In this world, there still is a nuclear threat and our United States Air Force is there to meet it so we can defend our great nation and our allies».

Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak is Assistant Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, Headquarters U. S. Air Force, Washington D.C. General Harencak is responsible to the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force for focus on Nuclear Deterrence Operations
Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak is Assistant Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, Headquarters U. S. Air Force, Washington D.C. General Harencak is responsible to the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force for focus on Nuclear Deterrence Operations

The Air Force’s goal is to develop and purchase 80 to 100 LRSB (Long-Range Strike Bomber) aircraft. This modernization of nuclear-capable bombers will provide safe, secure and effective forces for generations to come, he explained. «In what world do we send our grandchildren into combat in 80-year-old airplanes»? Harencak asked. «There are a lot of hard decisions we’ve got to make out there, but this isn’t one of them. We want them (our children and grandchildren) to win: 100 to nothing, not 51 to 49. We can afford this, and it’s desperately needed so the United States Air Force continues to be what it always has been – the force that allows alternatives and options for our president to defend America».

In addition to investment in aircraft, the Air Force is continuously working on increasing morale and mission focus within the intercontinental ballistic missile community, with help and guidance from the Force Improvement Program.

«Our ICBMs have been referred to as America’s ‘ace in the hole,’ for more than 50 years», Harencak said. «They still are. They are still the ante into this game that is so high that no one out there would ever be perversely incentivized to attempt to become a nuclear competitor with us. They make sure no one out there has any illusions that they could accomplish anything through the threat or use of nuclear weapons».

Boeing supported the launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base on September 23, 2014
Boeing supported the launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base on September 23, 2014

To reinvigorate the ICBM (InterContinental Ballistic Missile) community, the Air Force is on track to modernize the Minuteman III weapon system until the ground-based strategic deterrent is underway. Last year marked many changes in the community, and Harencak said the Air Force will continue to make improvements. «What we’re doing is making sure this is a process of continuous improvement», he said. «I am 100% positive we don’t have it 100% right – but that’s okay. We do have the processes and organizations in place to make sure we continually improve and never take our eye off the ball of the needs of Airmen in the nuclear enterprise».

The bottom line is we must move forward to ensure America’s nuclear triad is still the best in the world, and the general said modernization and recapitalization is the way to go. «The triad has been proven and tried and true for decades – because it works», Harencak said. «We need to continue to make the modest investments necessary to make sure we have the absolute best nuclear deterrent going forward».

The B-2 flies over the Utah Testing and Training Range at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, during the test run September 10, in which the B-2 dropped 80 inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions  (Photo by Bobbie Garcia)
The B-2 flies over the Utah Testing and Training Range at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, during the test run September 10, in which the B-2 dropped 80 inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions (Photo by Bobbie Garcia)